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ANGE M.MOSHER 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

RIVERSIDE 




Ex Lib r is 






Frederick & Emmanuelle 
D'Hauthuille-Schwartz 







4.. <f?. C? 



fLc . /f 2 £> 




PHOTO BY MC CAUL AND DICKSO 



ANGE M. MOSHER 



THE SPELL OF 
BRITTANY 



BY 

ANGE M. MOSHER 

with an introduction by 

ANATOLE LEBRAZ 



ILLUSTRATED 




NEW YORK 

DUFFIELD AND COMPANY 

1920 



Copyright, 1920, by 
DUFFIELD AND COMPANY 



Printed in the United States of America 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 



I. 

II. 
III. 

IV. 

V. 

VI. 

VII. 

VIII. 

IX. 

X. 

XL 

XII. 

XIII. 

XIV. 

XV. 

XVI. 

XVII. 

XVIII. 



XIX. 

XX. 

XXI. 



PAGE 

Foreword i 

Introduction v 

An Introduction to Brittany 3 

History of Brittany 8 

Chartres, Vitre and Les Rochers 13 

Madame De Sevigne 1G 

Rennes, Dol and Du Guesclin 25 

Folk-Lore and Jeanne de Pontorson .... 32 

Mont St. Michel and Its Legends 39 

St. Malo and Chateaubriand 48 

A Folk Song of St. Malo 56 

DlNARD, DlNAN AND EXCURSIONS 61 

Felix de Lamennais 66 

Guingamp, Paimpol and Pierre Loti .... 76 

Treguier, St. Yves and Ernest Renan ... 82 

The Legend and Pardon of St. Yves .... 89 

Morlaix, Bards and Poets 100 

Marc'harit Phulup and Job La Poulaine . . 105 

Breton Wedding 112 

Breton Costumes, Landerneau, La Garde Joyeuse, 

folgoat, and the legend of the fool . . . 121 

Brest and the Adjacent Islands 128 

AUDIERNE, AND THE LEGEND OF Ys 134 

Quimper, Le Faouet, St. Fiacre and the Venus 

of Quinipily 139 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER PAGE 

XXII. The Country of Guen 144 

XXIII. Brizeux — The National Poet of Brittany . . 148 

XXIV. Hennebout and the Ballad of Jeanne De Mont- 

fort 151 

XXV. Carnac and Legends of the Druids .... 158 

XXVI. Legends 165 

XXVII. Saints and Fairies 169 

XXVIII. Ploermel, the Battle of the Thirty, and Josselin 179 

XXIX. Le Croisic, Batz and Guerande 185 

XXX. Nantes and Anne of Brittany 192 

XXXI. Clisson, the Grotto of Abelard, and the Castle 

of Tiffauges 199 

Index 207 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Ange M. Mosher Frontispiece 

FACING PAGE 

Map of Brittany 4 

Anatole Le Braz 10 

Madame De Sevigne 18 

The Great Menhir of Dol 26 

The Virgin of Rumergol 36 

Striking a Bargain at a Breton Market Day 46 

Francois Auguste Rene De Chateaubriand 50 

Three Fishermen 58 

The Brittany Coast 72 

Ernest Renan 84 

The Chapel of Saint Gildas Near Port Blanc 92 

A Street in Morlaix 102 

Marc'harit Phulup 106 

The Dedication of the Monument to Marc'harit Phulup, the 

Ballad Singer 110 

A Village Dance in Brittany 118 

The Bone House at Tregastel, Inscribed "Today Me, To- 
morrow Thee" 126 

A Breton Fisherman 136 

Fishing Boats of Concarneau 148 

The Alignments, Carnac 158 

The Miraculous Fountain of Saint Jean Du Doigt 1G8 

The Sardine Factory 176, 

Anne of Brittany 192 

A Group of Bretons 196 



FOREWORD 

MENTAL and the Spiritual — so have I found my 
Brittany. 

At the start there was the charm of a varied 
landscape — the hills of granite — stretches of moors 
— picturesque valleys watered by limpid streams — 
the soft atmosphere beloved by artists. It was 
Brittany on its topographic side. 

I had met my attractive friend! 

Then as I continued my travels, summer after 
summer, I came to know the old churches — the 
sculptured Calvaries, the mediaeval chateaux, and 
the history of Brittany, dramatic and thrilling, re- 
vealed the traits and qualities of the race. I came 
to know the customs of the country, and the 
primitive appliances in the various industries and 
homely crafts, picturesque and appealing. 

My friend had revealed his mental, intellectual, 
and artistic side. 

But the Soul was discovered by slow degrees — 
as journey succeeded journey. For the Breton is 
reserved. Behind those many rows of buttons that 
adorn the embroidered gilet he is entrenched. But 
in the end he may be won. 

The Folk Lore of any nation reveals its tempera- 



ii FOREWORD 

ment. "As the wind of a century passes across the 
life of a people and — songs are made and stories 
are woven which tell what was felt and what was 
done." 

"Once upon a time" each fairy tale begins, and 
"they say" commences the story of something in the 
life of somebody, in the land of Somewhere. 
While the temperament of a race is mirrored in 
its fairy tale and folk-songs, its faith and beliefs 
are set forth in the Legends of the Saints or heroes 
of the country. But the acquaintance becomes in- 
timate only when we have come into the every- 
day life — if we share the neighbourhood experi- 
ences of a community, we make one of the little 
christening party at the church. We sit with the 
family around the Yule log on Christmas Eve. We 
join in the processions on Saints' days. We share 
the excitement and the rejoicings attending the be- 
trothal of a young man and maiden of the parish. 
We take part in the marriage festivities. And 
when Death enters the household we participate in 
the sorrows of those who mourn. We make one of 
the little group at the "Veillee." 

And thus we discover the soul of the beloved — 
be it friend — or be it country. Only within the 
last ten years have I arrived at this third and most 
important phase in my association with my adopted 
country — la belle et douce et bonne Bretagne. 

I often wonder if it is worth while to travel in 



FOREWORD ' iii 

Brittany before knowing the legends of the coun- 
try and the race. A friend lately said to me: "I 
motored all through Brittany last summer, but I 
didn't know there were any legends. I wish I had 
known there were legends." When I learned that 
she had rushed through the very Forest of Broce- 
liande — doubtless raising a cloud of dust as she 
passed by the fountain of Barenton — doubtless 
trailing the odor of gasolene past the very tomb 
where Vivian lies enchanted — moreover had 
whisked madly past the hill of Menez-Bre, little 
dreaming that near its summit the ancient prophet 
and bard Gwenc'hlan, buried in an upright posi- 
tion, has been waiting through thirteen centuries, 
until Brittany has need of him, when he will arise 
from his tomb and descend from Menez-Bre to 
free his country. 

One day in Paris, I was awaiting my turn at the 
ticket-office at Cook's, behind two nice elderly la- 
dies who asked for tickets to Brittany. "For what 
place in Brittany?" demanded the ticket-seller. 
"Oh, just Brittany, we don't know the names of 
the places, but we want to go to Brittany." But 
there were no tickets for "just Brittany." How I 
longed to plant myself on a bench between the two 
dears and tell them a few legends and other things. 
But I was myself tied to a train and there it ended. 
But I have often recalled the pair and hoped that 
they would one day "see Carcassonne." 

Perhaps these two incidents have had their part 



iv FOREWORD 

in inspiring me to collect these legends, hoping that 
they may be the means of explaining to other trav- 
ellers that which in the study of Brittany is the 
most valuable. 



INTRODUCTION 

The noble woman to whom we are indebted for 
the following pages, American by birth and 
Bretonne by adoption, has not only been an honour 
to those two countries, but to her sex and to hu- 
manity. 

All those who knew her on either side of the 
ocean will bear witness with me that it was impos- 
sible to be in her presence, even for a few seconds, 
without carrying away the impression that you had 
communed with one whose nature was most gen- 
erous and hospitable, and whose spirit was most 
rich and comprehensive. 

It is two years now since Mrs. Ange M. Mosher 
has passed away, but there is not one of her many 
friends in whose memory she has not remained 
actively present, as an example and a vital prin- 
ciple; for her whole existence, it may be said, has 
been a magnificent homage to the value and beauty 
of life. 

As for myself, I consider it a unique privilege 
to have known her. A short time before her death, 
she recalled to my mind the circumstances through 
which I first made her acquaintance, about twenty 
years ago. 

The Union regionaliste bretonne, which 

v 



vi INTRODUCTION 

dreamed then of creating, in our Amorican Brit- 
tany, national demonstrations analogous to those 
of the Welsh Eisteddfod, had chosen that year, for 
the place of their meeting, the little town of Guin- 
gamp. I went there from my home by the sea, 
upon one of those beautiful September days which, 
in this extreme western country of France, have 
such sweet, luminous charm — days already touched 
with the languor of autumn. 

The afternoon meetings, to which the public was 
invited, were held in a kind of barn, improvised 
for the occasion into an assembly hall. The deco- 
rations were rather ordinary; at the end of the 
room a platform had been made of rough boards 
to take the place, as well as possible, of a stage. A 
large number of spectators in true Breton fashion, 
that is to say, with a democratic spirit, were crowd- 
ing one another on the plain wooden benches bor- 
rowed from some neighbouring inn. 

As I pushed my way into the room, the audience 
was listening spellbound to a peasant singer whom, 
by her voice and manner, above all by the umbrella 
pressed tight under her arm as an indispensible 
attribute to her person, I recognized from the 
doorway as my old friend, Marc'harit Phulup; 
I shall have occasion to speak of her later. 

I was not long in noticing before me, near the 
front row of seats, the exquisitely beautiful face of 
a woman; it was evident that she was somewhat 
advanced in years, but below the waves of her sil- 



INTRODUCTION vii 

very, white hair she had a look of unfading, youth- 
ful freshness. The black lace mantilla around her 
head, the long floating cape of black silk that de- 
scended from her shoulders to her feet, in fact her 
whole appearance, indicated that she was a 
stranger. She was small of stature, and age had 
visibly rounded her form, but a glance was suf- 
ficient to be attracted by her supreme air of re- 
finement and distinction. This foreigner, of what- 
ever nationality, was undoubtedly a notable-look- 
ing personage. I asked the poet, Le Goffic, by 
whose side I was sitting, who this lady could be? 

"I know nothing about her," he said, "except 
that she is an American, and this morning, at the 
hotel, she expressed a desire to be allowed to fol- 
low the exercises of our reunion." 

She followed them apparently with the deepest 
interest. Her clear, blue eyes, shining with excite- 
ment and enthusiasm, did not leave the face of 
Marc'harit Phulup for one instant; she did not 
lose any play of her physiognomy, any intonation 
of her voice. Unable to follow the sense of her 
words, which were in the Breton language, she 
nevertheless imbibed, so to speak, with her atten- 
tive ears, the peculiar accents of the Celtic melody 
to which the uncultivated voice of the ballad-singer 
lent a primitive, almost wild character which was 
the more confusing. 

When Marc'harit had finished, Mrs. Mosher, 
not content with mere applause, wished to shake 



viii INTRODUCTION 

hands with her. This was the moment that Le 
Goffic introduced me. I was, then, far from fore- 
seeing the role that America would play in my 
life; like many of my compatriots, I had very 
vague ideas about it, and they were, for the most 
part, erroneous. America seemed a long way off, 
and neither did it have for me that mysterious at- 
traction that distance often lends; I thought that I 
should never have the opportunity of going there, 
and I did not even have the desire to do so; in 
short, America remained beyond my moral as well 
as my physical horizon; and now, behold it sud- 
denly revealed to me through one of its most 
charming incarnations! ... I realized, later, that 
Mrs. Mosher was an exceptional type of woman; 
but, had America only produced this one, she 
would have the right to be proud of her crea- 
tion. . . . 

We passed the rest of the day together; and when 
I took leave of her, at the approach of evening, we 
had the conviction when we parted, that the words 
exchanged during these short hours had woven 
between us a woof of affection strong and dur- 
able, that neither the passage of time, nor even 
death itself could ever break. 

The subject of our conversation may be easily 
divined. What else could it be if not about the 
Brittany we both loved so well? From one thing 
to another, Mrs. Mosher told how, and at what 
critical turn in her life she had had, according to 



INTRODUCTION ix 

her own expression, "the unhoped-for happiness of 
discovering Brittany." Many times afterward, 
she returned to this subject to give details or com- 
plete them. I wish to relate the principal inci- 
dents here; but, that which will be lacking in my 
recital — that which, alas! will be impossible for 
me to render, is the graceful manner and vivacious 
way she expressed her fine emotional feeling. Her 
language was so natural and original, so full of 
unusual expressions. 

Mrs. Mosher married young, and soon became a 
widow; she was left with three daughters upon 
whom she lavished her whole affection, devoting 
herself entirely to their education, which she al- 
ways esteemed the chief duty of her life. But, 
as children become older, their wings begin to 
grow; the time arrives when they aspire to fly; so, 
one sad day, Mrs. Mosher found herself upon the 
edge of an empty nest. She had hardly reached 
the age of full maturity; her destiny was far from 
being accomplished; endowed with a well-pre- 
served constitution, she saw many long, spacious 
years before her; with what could she fill them 
usefully? 

"Free now to live for myself, after having lived 
so long for others," she said, "I began to wonder, 
not without some anxiety, what would be the best 
usage I could make of my freedom. I did not 
know what to do or where to go in order to accom- 
plish my desire; I felt as if I were lost. In such a 



x INTRODUCTION 

perplexing situation as this, every woman expects 
a great revelation; for some, it presents itself in 
one form or another, but for many it never comes; 
mine, however, was to be Brittany. 

"My eldest daughter was then studying art in 
Paris. I joined her there one summer, and we 
were both asked to pay a visit to one of her friends, 
a young American, an artist like herself, whose 
parents had rented for the season the Chateau de 
la Grand' Cour, near Dinan. You must remember 
that I was ignorant, then, of Celtic Brittany even 
to its name. I know to-day that at Dinan I was 
still upon the threshold, only; but, nevertheless, it 
was there at the Chateau de la Grand' Cour that I 
was initiated into its existence, and that in a most 
unusual and unexpected way; fate sometimes 
works intelligently. One evening, as I was search- 
ing among the books in the library of the old Cha- 
teau for something to take to my room to read, my 
hand, by one of those providential chances, fell 
upon a large volume of which the size was really 
too important for my inclination, but its worn bind- 
ing tempted me. What could it contain of such 
interest that it had been read so much? I carried 
it off, opened it, and was soon absorbed in the sub- 
ject. At the same time, I had found the essential 
interest which was henceforth to occupy and en- 
chant my life; I had discovered what I was 
to do." 

This book was : La Bretagne by Pitre Chevallier. 



INTRODUCTION xi 

A superannuated work, perhaps, but it breathed a 
passionate love for the Breton-land, its ancient 
race, history, manners, customs and traditions. 
Mrs. Mosher read and re-read this book until she 
had well digested its contents. From this time 
forth, her great desire was to know the country 
described in the book; it haunted her continually, 
until she, at last, took up her staff, one day, and 
began to make most ardent pilgrimages through 
Brittany. Rarely did two consecutive summers 
pass without her appearance there. At regular in- 
tervals, the most humble, isolated, lost villages of 
Armorica saw alight from a public carriage or 
hired wagonette and to install herself in some little 
hotel of the place, a gentlewoman with a long black 
silk mantle, who, it was said, had come from a for- 
eign land. But she soon ceased to be a stranger 
to the Breton-folk; she was so kind to everybody, 
and so anxious to win all hearts; as for her 
own, the Bretons had conquered it the very 
first day. 

"Yes," it pleased her to say, "I have literally 

given myself to Brittany; and how graciously and 
delicately has Brittany welcomed the gift of my- 
self to her! You know how many times I have 
gone through the country year after year, discover- 
ing a little more each time, and consequently lov- 
ing it more and more! Well! not once, do you 
understand, have I been asked : who I am, whence 
I come, what I want. Oh! the wonderful discre- 



xii INTRODUCTION 

tion of this race, the most aristocratic of all races, 
in the purest acceptation of the word! They 
watched me come and go without any comments, 
as if the event was the most natural thing to do. I 
came: "Bon)our, Madame!" I went: "Bonsoir, 
Madame!" Never a look of astonishment, never a 
question; while I was constantly asking them ques- 
tions, and the greatest variety, too; I was always in 
quest of some information. I wanted to know all 
about the Breton people and Breton things; but, 
with all that, nobody took it amiss; nobody grew 
angry; on the contrary, it always stirred up a 
rivalry among them as to who could give the most 
information, and be the first to make it known. 
These men and women of the people instinctively 
felt that, if I were eager to know the detailed his- 
tory of their past and present, it was not through 
the idle curiosity of a mere tourist, but through the 
inspiration of a more noble desire to penetrate 
deeply into their souls so as to make them more 
intimately mine. Ah! what marvelous spiritual 
riches they have permitted me to accumulate in 
that way! How can I ever repay them! They 
have given me a hundred-fold more than I have 
ever given them; but the one to whom I owe the 
most, the human creature who has disseminated 
the most poetry and novelty into my life is, as you 
may divine, Marguerite Philippe — old Marc'- 
harit. . . ." 

Marc'harit Phulup! How can I describe her 



INTRODUCTION xiif 

in a few lines! Try to bring before your mind a 
poor Breton peasant with one arm maimed. She 
had less than ordinary intelligence, was completely 
lacking in education, not knowing how either to 
read or write, but for that very reason, perhaps, 
gifted with a wonderful memory. It was suf- 
ficient to sing a song before her only once, and she 
would retain both the air and the words. Now in 
Brittany they sing a great deal; during the day, in 
the open air in the fields; in the evening, around 
the fireside at the farms; and, as Marc'harit was 
incapable of working — that is, of using her hands 
to work — she earned her living, moving about 
from place to place, making pilgrimages from 
chapel to chapel for the sick who had need of the 
intercession of some saint to cure them (un saint- 
guerisseur) who was supposed to cure this or that 
malady. The occasions were not wanting, as she 
fulfilled her various missions to these chapels, to 
increase her repertoire of ballads. And so she 
finally arrived at the point of storing up in her 
memory a prodigious number of gwerziou and 
soniou (the two types of poetry the most common 
and popular among the Breton-folk) . She boasted 
of being able to sing unceasingly for three months 
without repeating a single song. Perhaps she may 
have exaggerated a little; but it is nevertheless 
quite true that she had a great genius for singing 
these ballads — the spirit of song dwelt within her 
soul. 



xiv INTRODUCTION 

I have already related under what circumstances 
Mrs. Mosher heard her the first time at Guingamp. 
That same evening, she asked Marc'harit to go to 
the hotel and dine with her, and afterwards to sing 
for her alone in her room. From that moment, a 
strong, touching friendship sprang up between 
the poor peasant woman of Tregor and the Ameri- 
can lady; in one of them it took the form of 
simple adoration, in which, however, there was no 
feeling of servility; in the other a complex senti- 
ment — a mingling of protective tenderness and sin- 
cere admiration with a deep sense of gratitude. 

"In Marc'harit," said Mrs. Mosher to me, 
"I had the impression that I had reached, not only 
the spirit of Brittany, but I even went so far as 
the very quintessence of this spirit drawn from its 
source, in all its original freshness, in all its prim- 
itive purity. It was as if the entire country, the 
sky, the earth, the sea had started to sing in order 
to breathe into me the music from the depths of 
its soul, that mysterious and magic symphony that 
the tourists and the profane pass by, and will al- 
ways pass by without hearing. . . . Dear, dear 
Marc'harit! . . . But what a strange relation be- 
tween the American that I am, and the Breton 
that she was ! There was no possible bond between 
us except the invisible one of the heart. Even the 
French I knew did not help me to communi- 
cate with her, as she knew, and only understood, 



INTRODUCTION xv 

Breton. No means, consequently, of intercourse 
through language. And yet, we lived in- 
timately together for days, weeks. We visited I 
don't know how many shrines. Seated side by 
side in one of your Breton vehicles, not any too 
comfortable, we jolted along, silently, to all ap- 
pearances; but, within us, there was a long conver- 
sation going on the whole time. How often we 
have conversed without saying a word to each 
other! How eloquent was this silence! When 
Marc'harit felt that it had lasted long enough, she 
would turn toward me, smiling both with her lips 
and eyes; then, with head erect, looking fixedly 
into the distant space, she would suddenly begin to 
intone a ballad. And, for one or two hours, she 
would sing and sing. It appeared as though the 
musical spirit of the old Breton harpers, her an- 
cestors, had brusquely awakened in her, and had 
taken possession of her very soul. She seemed to 
be made mad by the sound of her own voice, whose 
notes, growing gradually wilder and wilder, rang 
out long and loud through the solitude of the coun- 
try in which we were travelling. The meaning of 
the Breton words escaped me, yet there was some- 
thing strangely sympathetic in the mystery of their 
unknown syllables; the melody, the rhythm, the 
accent, all were apparently familiar to my ears; 
they evoked in me an indefinable memory of a life 
anterior to this, in very ancient days, where melo- 
dies like these had haunted my dreams. And I 



xvi INTRODUCTION 

cannot possibly give an idea of how much I was 
inspired by it; I had the feeling while listening to 
Marc'harit's song, that I was transported back to 
my veritable origin; I had the consciousness, as if 
through a miracle, of an immemorial, vertiginous 
past. What an infinite power of suggestion in those 
old, Celtic chants! I do not believe there can be 
found elsewhere any that are more touching or 
beautiful. I have hoarded up a number of them 
to rest me in my old age; they have supernatural 
virtues. Thanks to these songs, I can escape, when 
I choose, from the ugly features of New York; for 
I have only to hum one of these tunes to be taken 
back to Brittany, — to the land that I love.* And 
now you can understand, in some measure, what 
my debt is to the poor Armorican peasant woman, 
who, in her poverty, richer than all our million- 
aires put together, has left me this splendid leg- 
acy." 

Among the cultivated Bretons themselves, I 
know of no one who has gone farther than Mrs. 
Mosher in the comprehension of the soul of the 
Breton people. For proof of this assertion, I need 
only tell of a little episode in her relations with 
Marc'harit, to which a brief allusion is given by 
her in the course of this book. You have seen what 
unreserved admiration Mrs. Mosher has pro- 



* Mrs. Mosher was by natural endowment and by education a 
thorough musician. 



INTRODUCTION xvii 

fessed for the exceptional gift of her companion 
in many pilgrimages. She only saw one imper- 
fection in Marc'harit which shocked her a little; 
and she proposed to try and remedy the matter. 
Although Marc'harit had so many devotions to 
make, still she did not pay enough attention to 
physical cleanliness; it was a part of her employ- 
ment to make innumerable prayers at all of the, 
sacred fountains of her country, yet it did not occur 
to her to keep her hands long enough in the water 
to clean them. Mrs. Mosher thought that perhaps 
it was because she had never known the use of 
soap. And so one morning she asked the maid at 
the hotel to buy a cake of soap at a neighbouring 
bazaar and give it to Marc'harit as a present from 
her. 

"Well, what did she say?" inquired Mrs. 
Mosher of the maid when told that the errand had 
been done. 

"Oh! Madame, you should have heard her ex- 
clamation of delight when I gave her, with your 
compliments, the pretty rose-coloured cake of soap 
wrapped in silver paper. She said that she was 
never so happy in all her life." 

As the hour for dinner approached, Mrs. 
Mosher expected to see Marc'harit appear with 
immaculately clean hands. Alas! they were, if 
possible, more doubtful than the day before. The 
attempt had been unsuccessful. The next few days 
Marc'harit promenaded around triumphantly with 



xviii INTRODUCTION 

the piece of soap in her apron pocket, but not once 
did the idea come into her mind to make use of it. 
And, of course, Mrs. Mosher took great care not 
to indicate to her more explicitly to what use she 
had destined the present; she was too much afraid 
of wounding the Breton sensitiveness of her friend ; 
and so, perforce, she was obliged to return to the 
United States without obtaining the hygienic re- 
sult she so much desired. 

The following year, .upon her return to Brit- 
tany, she invited me to go with her to pay a visit 
to Marc'harit. Upon a beautiful autumnal after- 
noon in August, we went through the land of Tre- 
gor, heavy-laden with the ripe, yellow wheat, tak- 
ing the road to the hamlet of Saint Idunet where 
Marc'harit's thatched cottage stood in the midst 
of a small garden. As soon as she caught sight of 
us in the distance, she ran to meet us, escorted by 
her pet cat, who, up to the moment of our arrival, 
had been purring peacefully in the sun on the door- 
step by her side. With great effusion, she took 
hold of Mrs. Mosher's arm and led her into the 
dark interior of the room, up to the chimney-place 
with grey ashes upon its hearthstone; and then, she 
pointed to the chimney shelf (the family altar 
found in all Breton homes) which was about even 
with our heads, and said: 

"Sellet, Itron, aze man/" (See, Madame, it is 
there!) 



INTRODUCTION xix 

Yes, in very fact, it was there between a porce- 
lain statuette of Notre Dame de Bon Secours and 
a crucifix of box-wood mounted with copper nails; 
it was there intact, religiously exposed under a 
glass globe, the pretty little cake of rose-coloured 
soap wrapped with silver paper; and Marguerite 
fairly beamed with joy as she showed it to us. I 
looked at Mrs. Mosher; she was too much moved 
to articulate a word; tears filled her eyes. 

"Ah! yes," she finally said to me, "this is indeed 
your race — the indomitable creator of idealism! 
You make it out of nothing; this woman of the 
people has turned a commonplace article of the 
toilet into a symbol — a relic. She has transformed 
a poor, casual, trivial thing into a thing of the soul, 
— a thing of eternity." 

What Breton, may I ask, would have interpreted 
more surely, expressed in more happy terms, the 
very essence itself of Breton psychology? . . . 
This was to be the last visit ever made to Mar- 
guerite. A short time afterward, she rendered to 
God a soul as pure and white as her hands were sul- 
lied; she died as she had lived, in simple faith. 
The Cure of Pluzumet, the pastor of her parish, 
wrote to Mrs. Mosher that up to the last supreme 
moment she did not cease to whisper in her pray- 
ers the name of her benefactress across the sea. 
Mrs. Mosher, herself, has told how a monument 
to Marc'harit's memory was erected with a 
fund collected by Mrs. Mosher. Through her 



xx INTRODUCTION 

thoughtful kindness, Brittany will always know 
where to kneel at the sepulchre of the most fer- 
vent, the most humble of her national ballad- 
singers. 

But how many other services Mrs. Mosher has 
rendered to her adopted country! Had it not been 
for her, it is probable that one of its most note- 
worthy deeds — that of an heroic sailor who saved 
a whole fleet of ships — would have been doomed to 
oblivion. Browning, it is true, has celebrated this 
noble deed, but who reads Browning in Brittany? 
Mrs. Mosher, who knew her Browning by heart, 
never ceased to make a crusade for this great un- 
known Breton, Herve Riel, until the day she ob- 
tained recognition of his bravery from the negli- 
gent citizens of his native town — a recognition 
which had been deferred for two centuries. It 
was she who, with the aid of M. Etienne Port, 
resuscitated the bold Croisic pilot, the valiant hus- 
band of la belle Aurore. Since then, his bronze 
statue stands upon the quay of his native town, his 
face ever turned toward the sea whose waves — and 
the lines of an English poet — were for a long time 
the only things that perpetuated the memory of 
his exploit. His zealous American admirer had 
the satisfaction of being present at the inaugural 
ceremonies of the statue erected in his honor. A 
year later, war was declared; Mrs. Mosher was 
never to see Brittany again. 

During the bloody struggle of the late World 



INTRODUCTION xxi 

War, and even up to the hour of her death, which 
came, alas! before she could rejoice at the dawn of 
peace, her heart was always with her Bretons. 
Constantly she followed them in thought; on land, 
on sea, wherever their duty to France called them 
— their duty to the world; wherever they fought 
and fell for the salvation of the civilization of the 
soul, for which the Celts have ever been the true 
champions. 

It chanced that I was sent on a mission to the 
United States in the latter part of the year 1917; 
and, at the beginning of 191 8, I had the oppor- 
tunity of staying several weeks in New York. Mrs. 
Mosher was then living with her daughter, Mrs. 
Wood. 

"Come as often as you have a moment to spare," 
she said; and I arranged to go to see her nearly 
every afternoon; she was then eighty years old. 
Did she have a presentiment then that the conver- 
sations of this winter would be the last that we 
would ever have together? I had, at all events, the 
impression that she purposely filled them with 
questions and confidences, as if to leave me as much 
as possible of herself, and to gain as much as she 
could from my presence. There was a secret 
solemnity about these hours passed together, and in 
spite of ourselves our words took a tone so grave 
that the effects of them were prolonged mysteri- 
ously, long after we had separated. Oh ! those talks 
on Park Avenue — those talks so full of deep feel- 



xxii INTRODUCTION 

ing, that I had with the most intelligent and hos- 
pitable of friends! They will be present to my 
mind as long as I live. 

I usually found Mrs. Mosher knitting socks for 
the soldiers; when I left New York she was knit- 
ting the three hundred and twenty-sixth pair. Of 
course it was natural that the first subject we dis- 
cussed was the war; then, by some sudden break in 
the conversation we escaped into the past. Mrs. 
Mosher took me back with her over the years of 
her life; introduced me into the sanctuary of her 
memory; evoked the pleasures of her youth, her 
childhood. She told me of the liberal education 
she had received in her native town of Warsaw; 
how she rode horseback; how she learned to shoot 
in company with four or five brothers; how, under 
the guidance of her father, one of the judges of the 
county, she became fond of nature, music and 
books; how, one evening, when she was playing the 
piano, she suddenly discovered that she had, at the 
window, a singularly attentive listener in the per- 
son of a young girl of her own age, who chanced to 
be none other than Adelina Patti; how — but I for- 
get myself; it is my mission to speak of Mrs. 
Mosher only in regard to her indissoluble connec- 
tion with Brittany. 

One day in February, as I crossed the threshold 
of her door, she handed me a copy of the North 
American Review, in which she had just read a 
touching incident about a young Breton of He et 



INTRODUCTION xxiii 

Pilaine, by the name of Louis Malivet, then con- 
valescing in the American Hospital at Neuilly, 
after having a leg and arm cut off. The nurse, who 
had him in charge, did not have enough words to 
express her praise of his resignation, his serenity, 
his gentleness, the unique quality of his "Breton 
smile." 

"I want to do something for Louis Malivet," she 
said. 

And she immediately began a correspondence 
with him in order to find out in what way she could 
be the most useful. He did not have extrava- 
gant wishes, this poor mutilated soldier of the war! 
His whole ambition, once out of the hospital, was 
to have the means of taking up again his primary 
studies (he was forced to leave them when he was 
thirteen years old to go and work in the field) and 
to prepare for his examinations as a teacher. 
Needless to say that Mrs. Mosher raised the 
necessary money, and now, over there, at lie et 
Vilaine, in Brittany, there is a school-master who 
blesses her memory. When he wrote to thank her, 
she replied : "The only thing that I ask for in re- 
turn, is to teach your pupils to love Brittany." 

How she, herself, loved the Breton-folk! She 
loved them with her whole heart and soul; with a 
love complete and absolute, even for their defects 
and weaknesses. Upon more than one occasion, 
she could have wished that the Bretons were less 
Celtic; that is to say, less divided among them- 



xxiv INTRODUCTION 

selves; and that they would not waste their time 
and strength in quarreling. And, no doubt, she 
could have wished them to be less addicted to 
drinking strong liquor. But Mrs. Mosher always 
expressed herself about these things in words full 
of indulgence. Her criticisms were intentionally 
veiled in parables. For instance, she represented 
herself on the way to paradise, surrounded by her 
dear Bretons. They were all there — those whom 
she had met in her earthly life. But, en route, 
some stopped to drink, others to quarrel, so that 
by the t ; me she had reached the gates of the Celes- 
tial Abode she was alone. Saint Peter, as every- 
one knows, is not gifted with patience. Hardly 
had he opened the door, when he made a motion 
as if to close it again: 

"I know your Bretons," he said. "If I waited 
for them I should be here a week." 

"Oh! you surely would not be so hard-hearted as 
to leave them outside, good Saint Peter! They are 
such worthy folk. Of course they have their faults, 
that cannot be helped, for God has made them that 
way; but, to counterbalance these faults, how many 
qualities! Ask your colleague, good Saint 
Yves. . . ." 

And so she continued talking as long as possible 
in order to gain time; and . . . the conclusion is 
that they finally arrived. 

It was on Wednesday, February 13, 1918, that 
I had, with my good friend, the conversation which 



INTRODUCTION xxv 

was never to be followed by another. I left for 
Cincinnati in order to rejoin my wife, to whom 
Mrs. Mosher loved to apply these lines of Brown- 
ing: 

"A spirit, a fire, a dew." 

Upon the point of leaving behind me the apart- 
ment on Park Avenue a strange melancholy seized 
my heart. Mrs. Mosher, whose quick perception 
divined, at once, what was passing within me, said : 

"Yes, it is possible that we may never meet 
again; but, if this happens, think of me without 
regret. I have been blessed during long, long 
years, and I will go on to the great and last ad- 
venture with that same ardent desire with which 
I have gone forward to meet all other experiences 
of my life. It is just as if I were making ready to 
discover another Brittany, still more enchanting, 
if possible, — an eternal Brittany. In truth, I will 
carry it in me. Do you remember that Queen of 
England who declared, when dying, that if her 
heart was opened after death that they would find 
written there the name of Calais? — Well, in mine, 
if they open it, will be found the word : Brittany." 

Dear, dear friend, you are no longer here among 
us, but a part of you will always be found in these 
pages, written from your dictation by one who was 
intimately attached to you. 

This will be like your own voice breaking the 



xxvi INTRODUCTION 

silence of the tomb so as to proclaim, better than 
I have been able to do, how you have felt, and un- 
derstood, and loved Brittany. . . . You, the won- 
derful American woman that you were, to whom 
your second country had gratefully given the title : 
Bretonne Ira Mor* 

Anatole Le Braz. 

New York, February 15, 1920. 



* "The Bretonne across the sea.' 



THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 



The Spell of Brittany 

CHAPTER I 

AN INTRODUCTION TO BRITTANY 

It SOMETIMES happens that after much travel 
in guide-book fashion one likes to search out some 
little nook of a continent where, jaunting about 
leisurely, browsing in quiet fashion, one meets peo- 
ple, objects and experiences more simple and naive 
than those encountered in ordinary travel. And 
to find such a spot, quite apart, a corner of the 
earth where the folk-songs are still sung, the 
ancient language spoken, the old legends recited, 
where the traditional costume is worn — in short, 
where the people hold to the old faith, customs and 
traditions — this is to many a coveted pleasure. 
The Province of Brittany offers the possibilities, 
and to realize them is the object of the various 
journeys we are to make together. 

And happy the traveller whose actual visit has 
been long delayed and who has done much imagi- 
nary journeying through the medium of books. 
When at last he visits the actual scenes he will ex- 
perience a sense of familiarity and ownership. 

Historians agree that the record of Brittany is 

3 



4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

most curious and interesting. Many minds have 
served in the making of this record. But the real 
history of this as of many another corner of the 
earth remains to be written. Emile Souvestre has 
well expressed it: "Only when each fragment of a 
country shall have its own careful and studious 
historian and these fragments are joined together 
shall we have a really great, an entire, a perfect 
history. For each little corner of every province 
has its own intimate record; its story of a faithful 
priest or brave captain, its chronicle of the heroic 
patience and humble service of its peasants, its 
local tradition, its old song and legend." 

The object of these chapters is to note some of 
these simple records, to recite some of the old bal- 
lads, recall the legends and to give a few modest 
impressions received during various journeys 
through this one little corner of France — Brittany 
with its five departments: Ille-et-Vilaine, Cotes- 
du-Nord, Finistere, Morbihan and Loire-In- 
ferieure. 

There are many reasons for giving Brittany espe- 
cial place in one's affections and for choosing it as 
the scene of our little journeys together. Not that 
nature had been too prodigal in her bestowals. 
One finds nothing in the topography of Brittany to 
compare with a Niagara or a Vesuvius. There are 
mountains and ravines and rivers, with here and 
there a landscape which Virgil would not have 
scorned. It is a land of quartz and granite and 



AN INTRODUCTION TO BRITTANY 5 

stretches of moor and forests which might not im- 
press the ordinary traveller, but in these forests 
one hears the echoes of ancient voices, visions of 
fairy folk lurk in the mysterious shadows and he- 
roes of legends are in hiding behind rocks and 
ancient trees. One is made aware of a peculiar 
presence, a touch of the marvellous, the mysteri- 
ous, a magic influence. Enchanted forests and en- 
chanted people exist in Brittany. The fairies still 
dance around the dolmen on moonlit nights, the 
dead walk in slow procession through the fields 
and along the roadways on the night of La Tous- 
saint. The mystic vervaine of that early inhabi- 
tant — the Druid — has not lost its secret. All is 
fanciful and uncertain as if enveloped in a subtle 
fog. Vagueness and nebulous dreaminess pervade 
the atmosphere — the vagueness and nebulousness 
of the Middle Ages. It is an atmosphere in which 
giants and fairies are born and fancies and super- 
stitions find congenial soil. Caesar wrote that the 
inhabitants of this old Armorica (the ancient name 
of the Province) were the most superstitious of all 
the peoples he encountered. This influence still 
exists and the traveller is made aware of it. In 
our excursions in this country it is well to leave 
our twentieth-century scientific notions behind. 
Poor old Brittany! The X-Ray of rationalism 
would make havoc of the poetry and mystery and 
delicate vagueness which create the magic atmos- 
phere of our Province. 



6 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Brittany has furnished rich material for poets, 
artists, historians and archaeologists and many of 
her sons and daughters have been numbered among 
the world's great names. The pens of Caesar, Taci- 
tus and Pliny the Elder have written her early his- 
tory, but a yet earlier record was made when, 
perhaps thousands of years before the Romans 
came to conquer Gaul, the megalithic stones were 
placed in Carnac in Lower Brittany where we see 
them standing to-day. When and by whom were 
raised these mysterious monuments? No one can 
tell. The Arthurian legends are associated with 
Brittany. The "Breton Lays," translated by Ula- 
ric of France from the Keltic into French and 
dedicated to Henry II of England furnish proof 
of this. 

In these little journeys together we shall visit 
the country of Du Guesclin, a name which is to the 
Breton what that of Washington is to us, William 
Tell to a Swiss or Garibaldi to an Italian. We 
shall make our pilgrimage to the grotto of Abe- 
lard and Heloise the scene of the love and tears 
of the unhappy pair after their flight from Paris. 
We shall visit the castle of that odious personage, 
Gille de Rais, a Breton lord of the twelfth cen- 
tury whose unhandsome exploits furnish the stuff 
of which one of the Bluebeard legends was made. 
At Paimpol we are to meet the fisher folk of Pierre 
Loti's "Pecheurs d'lslande." At Carhaix we find 
the souvenirs of La Tour d'Auvergne, First Grena- 



AN INTRODUCTION TO BRITTANY 7 

dier of France. We shall visit Guerande, the scene 
of Balzac's "Beatrice," and Sarzeau, birthplace of 
Le Sage, where, under the myrtles and fig trees of 
his little garden he wrote his "Gil Bias" and "Tur- 
caret." And we shall often cross the path of Anne 
of Brittany, twice Queen of France. At Concar- 
neau and Pont Aven we shall pause to note the 
mise-en-scene of Blanche Willis Howard's story of 
"Guenn." We shall see Carnac where stand the 
rows on rows of grey stones as they stood when 
Caesar found them over two thousand years ago. 
And the Chateau des Rochers, where were written 
most of the "Letters" which have made the name 
of Madame de Sevigne famous. And Pornic and 
Croisic, where, during those summers after Mrs. 
Browning's death, the Poet sought a wilderness 
and where he wrote some of his best-known poems. 
And three places — St. Malo, La Chenaie and Tre- 
guier associated with three great names, Chateau- 
briand, Felix de Lamennais and Ernest Renan. 

All these and many more names are associated 
with this our Province of France, and furnish the 
biographical interest of Brittany to the student of 
this feature of history — of human history. 



CHAPTER II 

HISTORY OF BRITTANY 

BEFORE getting further under way it is a duty 
to speak of the history of Brittany. Of course, if 
one studies Brittany seriously one must read the 
six volumes of La Borderie's History of Brittany, 
but we give only the merest outlines. These are 
roughly as follows: Thousands of years before 
Christ, according to Jubainville, the highest au- 
thority on Keltic history, the Kelts left their 
mountains in the Orient and emigrated westward. 
In one of these great emigrations they peopled 
Gaul and the Westward Islands (now Great Brit- 
ain). Fifteen centuries ago Rome came to con- 
quer Gaul and while all Gaul became Gallio-Ro- 
man that province named Armorica (now Brit- 
tany) was especially under the Roman domination. 
When the invasion of Italy by the barbarians oc- 
curred and Rome, weakened in power, lost her 
prestige, its hold on Armorica relaxed. Then came 
the Saxons. In Armorica as in Great Britain they 
killed, pillaged, burned. In Great Britain, after 

8 



HISTORY OF BRITTANY 9 

fierce resistance, they established themselves; in 
Armorica they destroyed and then abandoned it. 

During the Roman domination and after the 
Saxon invasion most of the Armoricans had fled 
to Wales and Ireland, these countries being less 
under Saxon domination. But in the fifth century 
when the Saxons pressed too hard in the Islands 
the Kelts began, what is called in Breton history, 
"The Great Emigration." Seeking a new country, 
the nearest shores they found were old Armorica. 
Then began the Little Brittany, as they named it 
in contradistinction from the Great Britain. Dur- 
ing three centuries ship followed ship in one long 
and memorable exodus, bringing men to defend 
and saints to guide these pilgrims in the new coun- 
try. And thus the Bretons to-day greet as brothers 
the Kelts of Wales, Ireland, North Scotland, the 
Isle of Man and Cornwall. 

Brittany has been theocratic under the Druids, 
Roman under Roman rule, feudal under her 
dukes and counts, a kingdom under her early mon- 
archs and finally, when her last duchess, Anne of 
Brittany, became Queen of France, Brittany be- 
came a Province of that country, thus varying 
politically from the three thousand years before 
Julius Caesar came to conquer Gaul, where he 
found the Druids in possession, to the French 
Revolution. 

Caesar was her first historian and, as poets were 
among her early annalists, many fables are mingled 



io THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

with the history of Brittany. One genealogist 
under Greek influence makes Hercules coming 
from Africa, pass through Gaul where he mar- 
ried the nymph Kelto, thus giving birth to the 
Kelts. Another under Latin influence makes Brit- 
tany begin with the inevitable TEneas. Some 
Breton legends go so far back as Noah, affirming 
that he landed from the ark on the river Loire. 
Another legend dates from Paradise, holding that 
Eve spoke the Breton language. Upon these we 
must not insist, it being quite sufficient to know that 
the Keltic language was used by the inhabitants of 
our Province when Caesar invaded Gaul. Without 
going back to Moses it is shown that the Breton 
race allies itself with the present through the Ro- 
mans, hence in the study of the Breton history one 
must consult the "Commentaries" of the Conqueror 
of Gaul. 

The Bretons of the Continent hated the Saxon 
with a hatred equal to that of the Bretons of the 
Islands and the two Brittanys were allies during 
the wars of that period. The history of the two 
fraternal Brittanys covers the period from the time 
of Caesar's invasion of Gaul, fifty-eight years be- 
fore Christ, to the fifth century of the Christian 
era. 

The two Brittanys were the double centre of 
Druidism, the Great Gallic Theocracy. The 
domination of the Romans lasted four hundred 
years. The ancient history of Brittany may be 



HISTORY OF BRITTANY n 

said to have ended with the arrival of Clovis and 
Christianity, when begins the mediaeval history of 
the Province. Druidism was the serious obstacle 
which Christianity encountered. It resisted long 
in Armorica. But it finally merged into the New 
Faith and by degrees as an ancient historian has 
so well expressed it: "The clan and confederation 
of Druidism became Feudality; the pact of friend- 
ship of the Druid became chivalry; the assemblies 
of the leaders became the parliaments of the 
nobles; the ovates of the Druids became the sor- 
cerers of the Middle Age; the bards were changed 
into popular singers, elves and fairies took the 
place of Druids and Druidesses; the Druidic fetes 
of the lake were supplanted by fetes of the foun- 
tain; the duels of the Druidic feasts became the 
tournaments of the knights." 

Through all this changing from Druidism to the 
New Faith, the Christian fathers were wise and 
patient. Joseph de Maistre names the early bish- 
ops "those Christian Druids" and says of them: 
"They grafted the Christian Faith upon the oak 
of the Druid — planted the Cross upon the dolmen 
— the new poets did not break the harp of the 
ancient bards, they only changed a few of its 
chords." 

From the fifth century until 1492, when Anne 
of Brittany became Queen of France, the records 
of the various wars are full of dramatic and ro- 
mantic interests. There were wars in which Eng- 



12 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

land and France strove to wipe each other out of 
existence — wars whose annals include the names of 
Jeanne d'Arc and Du Guesclin, in which Brittany, 
alas ! was too often the battlefield of the two ambi- 
tious nations. 

With these extremely slight historical sugges- 
tions let us set out upon our travels. 



CHAPTER III 

CHARTRES, VITRE AND LES ROCHERS 

By TAKING an eight o'clock morning train at 
Montparnasse station one may travel from Paris 
to Chartres on a summer day and be able to stop 
off for a few hours for a glimpse of the wonderful 
cathedral, still reaching Vitre by daylight — this 
being our first objective point in Brittany. In- 
deed, how can one pass through Chartres without 
a passing glimpse of the rare monument which in- 
spired the poem of James Russell Lowell and fur- 
nished material for Huysman's rare book, "La Ca- 
thedrale." 

While Huysman's book offers great advantages 
in the study of the Cathedral technically and oth- 
erwise, the traveller is even more grateful to the 
author of a more recently published book written 
by Henry Adams, entitled, "The Cathedrals of 
Mont. St. Michel and Chartres." In this book 
we realize the Virgin enthroned in the sculptured 
shrines of the Cathedral, and emblazoned in the 
jewelled glass of that marvellous East Window. 
As Virgin, Mother of God, Womanhood and 

13 



i 4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Motherhood have been translated and defined in a 
rare magnificence of repetition and detail and the 
people of the mediaeval period were silenced in 
awe and adoration. Even the modern soul can- 
not fail to be impressed by the splendid embodi- 
ment of Woman in the Cathedral of Chartres. 

Of course a serious appreciation of this glorious 
monument requires long visits and much study even 
when armed with the two books we have named. 
But a glimpse in passing is worth while as a be- 
ginning and the three hours spent in Chartres on 
our journey through Brittany serve to inspire and 
prepare for future experiences. Before taking our 
train for Vitre we lunch in the open at one of the 
little cafes of the town and thus take an early 
afternoon train. 

It is sunset when our train arrives at Vitre. 
The hour when the walls and towers of this fine 
old feudal town, golden in the evening glow, are 
seen at their finest. 

In all France there remain but three mediaeval 
towns which have preserved their feudal aspect — 
Avignon in the South of France, for many years 
the Papal Seat — Guerande and Vitre, both in Brit- 
tany. 

There is a certain little inn near the station 
called the "Hotel des Voyageurs," reasonably com- 
fortable. It has a rival over the way which 
bears the high-sounding title of "The Steward of 
Madame de Sevigne" writ large upon its front. 



CHARTRES, VITRE AND LES ROCHERS 15 

Whether the virtues of this personage of two cen- 
turies ago have been transmitted to his descend- 
ants we cannot say. 

Vitre has but one church — old and interesting, 
but not important. It was formerly a priory. The 
facade is formed of seven gables. An exterior 
pulpit of the fourteenth century of pure Gothic 
style, placed there, tradition has it, in order to 
oppose the public sermons of the Calvinists uttered 
from an exterior pulpit of the Chateau near by, is 
worth noting, it being one of the finest examples of 
its kind of which there are very few in existence. 
The Colignys introduced Calvinism into Vitre and 
during the wars of the League the castle served as 
one of the armories of the Huguenots. 

We stroll about the narrow streets. Ancient 
houses built upon pillared galleries, each story 
projecting beyond the one below, almost meeting at 
the summit its neighbour over the way, making a 
pell-mell of dormer-windows, sculptured cornices 
and chimneypots — such are numerous in medieval 
Vitre. And there are several interesting antiquity 
shops — an attractive feature to many of us! 

But Vitre, interesting in itself, is not the chief 
object of this visit, which is to see the chateau of 
Les Rochers, the home of Madame de Sevigne, 
and next morning we secure a good horse, car- 
riage and driver for the modest sum of six francs 
and make the excursion thither three miles from 
Vitre. 



CHAPTER IV 

MADAME DE SEVIGNE' 

ALTHOUGH Madame de Sevigne was born in 
Paris (you know the little house in the Place des 
Vosges), most of her short married life and her 
long widowhood were passed at the Chateau Les 
Rochers. It is chiefly with her associations with 
Brittany that we have to do. Through the vivid 
records in the "Letters" we see her making the 
journeys from Paris to Vitre, an affair of eight or 
nine days and thus described: "It was a veritable 
cavalcade," she writes, "two open carriages, seven 
carriage horses, two men on horseback and upon a 
pack-horse the bed is carried to serve at the inns 
en route." She took measures against dullness by 
choosing agreeable friends for fellow travellers 
and she carried along the favorite books. They 
talked; they read Racine and Corneille and Nic- 
ole; they enjoyed the scenery. The good uncle, the 
"bien bon" of the "Letters" always made one of 
the party and often her son Charles, who appears 
to have been a most agreeable companion. 

16 



MADAME DE SEVIGNE 17 

And we note other journeys — those from Vitr6 
back to Paris where at the court of Louis XIV at 
Versailles a welcome always awaited this clever 
and charming woman. And we accompany her on 
the occasional visits to her daughter in Provence 
and to the waters of Vichy for her recurrent rheu- 
matism. Many an author is seen at his best in his 
travel notes; our chatelaine of Les Rochers is no 
exception. When she travels in these "Letters," 
the reader vividly accompanies her. 

The late Gaston Boissier of the College de 
France in his delightful sketch of the famous let- 
ter-writer says: "It is doubtless true of the 'Let- 
ters' of Madame de Sevigne that the most 
interesting thing in them is Herself." She wrote 
with frankness. Most of her secrets she let slip 
sooner or later from the point of her pen. Her 
gossip charms, her frivolities enchant, her airy 
nothings passed around among the court circle at 
Versailles crystallized into bon mots and were held 
worthy to be adopted and repeated by the great 
Louis himself. 

When the brilliant Marie de Rabutin-Chantal 
married the flippant Chevalier de Sevigne, of a 
Breton family allied to the Du Guesclins and Clis- 
sons, he was possessed of more estates than money. 
We learn that he esteemed but did not love his 
wife and that she loved but did not esteem him, 
most people agreeing with her in respect to the 
latter. We find the husband squandering his 



18 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

dowry in gambling. We see him at the feet of 
Ninon de l'Enclos as was his father before and his 
son after him. For a quarter of a century later 
in a letter to her daughter dated 1671 the mother 
writes: "Your brother is under the spell of Ninon. 
She ruined his father." When a duel fought over 
a disreputable love affair takes the Chevalier off 
we feel little regret. During the following years 
she is at Les Rochers with her two children prac- 
tising economies to repair the deficiencies caused 
by the follies of the young husband. 

From time to time she flits to Paris where in 
1650 she made re-entry into society. And now we 
associate her with that famous Hotel de Carnava- 
let, still redolent with associations and souvenirs 
of this witty woman. And we note the more se- 
rious turn in her tastes for we find her at the Hotel 
Rambouillet, a Salon then at its highest point of 
distinction, where she met Racine, Corneille, 
Voiture, La Fontaine, Moliere and the two tutors 
of her girlhood, Chapelain and Menage. Among 
all these we see her the precieuse she indeed was, 
but with a preciosity free from the extravagancies 
of her pedantic tutors who thereby suffered ridi- 
cule in the comedy of Moliere: "Les Precieuse 
Ridicules." 

We note that in the days of the Fronde, which 
brought about great changes in her circle, she plays 
her role of Frondeuse gaily and with her accus- 
tomed success. 




MADAME DE SfiVIGNfi 

After the portrait by Mignard which still hangs in her bedroom 

at Les Rochers, Vitre 



MADAME DE SEVIGNE 19 

Through these "Letters" we meet her at the 
house of the Scarrons. And at the La Fayette's 
where she with her hostess and Rochefoucauld 
made a frequent and admirable trio. She is at the 
Saturdays of Madame Scudery and often at the 
theatre. We note the episodes, so-called love af- 
fairs, in which the great Turenne and the Comte 
de Lude failed to win her hand. And the Prince 
de Conti and Fouquet were in the procession. But 
she turns all her lovers into staunch friends. 

Then she marries her daughter, "the prettiest 
girl in France" (according to the mother), to a 
Count of Provence, and we read the wonderful 
mother letters that follow. 

But the most attractive experiences of her life 
are associated with Brittany. Through the "Let- 
ters" we follow her day by day at Les Rochers. 
We watch her planting the avenues of trees 
through which we walk to-day. On October 28, 
1671, she writes to her daughter: "I don't know 
what you have done this morning, but as for my- 
self I have been half knee deep in the dew taking 
measurements. I am laying out winding avenues 
all around the park which will be very beautiful. 
If my son loves the woods and walking he will 
bless my memory." It is to be feared that the 
rather flippant Charles failed in this respect, but 
her memory is blessed by the visitor who rambles 
through these lovely avenues to-day. 

And she reads. She reads all sorts of books, 



20 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

grave and gay — Tasso in his own language, and 
Roman History (Plutarch and Josephus) and 
Nicole's "Treaty on Morals." Oh, how often she 
seems to be reading that dull book! And Pascal 
and Fenelon and others of the Port-Royalist group, 
and Virgil ("in all the majesty of the Latin," she 
writes), although it has been said of her Latin 
that it went limpingly sometimes. And with so 
much that is serious we welcome the arrival of 
the son who promptly infuses somewhat of gaiety 
into the group. For on these visits we catch the 
laugh over chapters of "Rabelais" and the "Come- 
dies of Moliere," of which the mother writes: 
"My son reads us many a bagatelle of which he is 
prince — comedies which he acts like Moliere him- 
self, poems and novels. He is most witty and 
amusing. He has kept us from taking up any 
serious reading as we had intended. When he 
leaves we shall resume our Nicole." And again: 
"Charles reads us chapters of 'Rabelais' enough 
to make us die of laughter." 

We follow her to Vitre to the assembling of the 
Breton Parliament when she tells us: "The din- 
ners are so magnificent that one dies of hunger," 
and she flits back to Les Rochers whence she 
writes: "I need to sleep, to eat, to refresh myself, 
to be silent." And again : "At last, my daughter, 
I have come back to my 'bien bonf my masons and 
carpenters, and I am transported with joy." And 
she rejoices like any child over the luxury of eat- 



MADAME DE SEVIGNE 21 

ing the huge slices of Breton bread and butter. 
"How much better to be here all alone than in the 
fracas of Vitre," she writes. One smiles at the 
term "fracas" applied to the dear, dead, old Vitre 
that one finds to-day. 

From time to time occur the visits of the daugh- 
ter — visits always shadowed with clouds of mis- 
understanding, to be followed — once separated — 
by repentances and self-reproaches on the part of 
the daughter, who seems to have been a person of 
strong character and little tenderness. 

And we follow our chatelaine in many of those 
lonely walks through the avenues of the park — 
"All alone tete-a-tete," she puts it so characteris- 
tically. The "Letters" admit the reader to a cer- 
tain intimacy. Indeed the visitor of Les Rochers 
to-day has the impression of having known the 
place before. 

Within the chateau we see the bedroom of 
Madame de Sevigne, in which her portrait hangs 
— that painted by Mignard, coiffed a la Grecque — 
very decolletee — a mantle hanging in many folds 
from the shoulder. And the canopied bed, the 
book of accounts with the faithful gardener Pilois, 
which we find more interesting than the transcrip- 
tion of Virgil in her own handwriting, the powder 
puff, brushes and other toilet articles — all impart 
an intimate air to the apartment. 

We find the garden as prim as when first laid 
out after the plans of Le Notre and the veritable 



22 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

orange trees of two centuries ago stand in the orig- 
inal plan. The little chapel is quite intact with its 
altar, pictures, sofas, chairs and other furnishings 
of the period. This is the chapel so often men- 
tioned in the "Letters," built by the "bien bon" 
the Abbe de Coulanges whose economies in the 
affairs of his niece seem not to have interfered with 
a little mania of his own for building. 

But it is the park with its avenues planted by 
the faithful Pilois under her own eye that bring 
the charming proprietor of Les Rochers nearest 
us. These still retain the names she gave them: 
"The Infinite," "The Solitary," "The House of 
My Daughter," etc. The motto carved over the 
entrance of the chateau suggests the spirit in which 
the hospitalities of Les Rochers were offered by 
its mistress : "Blessed Liberty. Do whatever you 
like." 

Through the "Letters" not only the chateau but 
its chatelaine becomes very real to the readers. 
We come to know how everyday life went on. It 
was in a simple quiet fashion thus described in a 
letter to her daughter: "We rise at eight. I often 
spend the hour until nine in the park breathing the 
fresh air of the forest. At nine the bell rings for 
mass. After mass we make our toilette and say 
good morning to one another. We gather flowers; 
we dine. Between dinner and five we read and 
write. When I go to my avenues I have my books. 
I plant myself wherever I like. I change places 



MADAME' DE SEVIGNE 23 

and I change books — for one a book of devotion, 
for another history, and so on. At eight I hear a 
bell. It is for supper. After which we sit in the 
garden listening to the nightingales and breathing 
the perfume of the orange blossoms." 

Setting out for Paris she writes: "Adieu, my 
poor Rochers, adieu, my books, my prie Dieu, my 
dreams, my air castles, my lonely avenues, and our 
gay little after-suppers! Adieu! happy domain of 
the 'fa'niente.' " 

We find ourselves equally loath to leave this 
lovely spot, attractive not only through its own 
charms, but so deliciously pervaded with the at- 
mosphere and souvenirs of one of the most fas- 
cinating women of France. 

As an illustration of the influence of heredity 
Madame de Sevigne furnishes a notable instance, 
we note her two contrasting sides — the serious, the 
religious, and that other in which piquancy, satire, 
gaiety, elegance, and social charm are combined. 
On the one side we trace the mysticism of the 
grandmother, Madame de Chautal. On the other 
bubbles the sparkling red blood of the Rabutins. 
Two more opposing elements never met in the 
veins of mortal woman. In this conjunction we 
find the varied traits of Madame de Sevigne — 
grave and gay — tender and satirical — charming 
and cruel — enjoying alike "Rabelais" and "The 
Lives of the Saints" — devote at the altar of the 
little chapel of Les Rochers and at Versailles gaily 



24 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

leading the dance as partner of the Sun King. 
Vo'tla notre Chatelaine/ 

As a matter of fact many Bretons, while always 
appreciating her genius as letter-writer and her 
charm as mistress of Les Rochers, do not love 
Madame de Sevigne. One is not surprised at this, 
recalling that in more than one of the "Letters" 
she recounts the acts of de Chaulnes the Governor- 
General of Brittany, appointed by Louis XIV, who 
erected gibbets all over the Province and hung 
many hundreds of Bretons because they resisted 
gross injustice and held to their traditions. And 
these events were recorded by our letter-writer of 
Les Rochers without a trace of sorrow, pity or ten- 
derness. . For this reason at the recent inauguration 
of a statue at Vitre in honour of Madame de Se- 
vigne, many Bretons were conspicuous by their ab- 
sence. 



CHAPTER V 

RENNES. DOL AND DU GUESCLIN 

We REACH Rennes after two and a half hours 
of travel from Vitre. Fifteen hundred years ago 
Rennes was an interesting place. It was one of 
two Capitals of Brittany, the seat of an Archbish- 
op, and has always been a prominent military 
point. Two rivers, the Ille and La Vilaine, join 
their waters at this point, giving the name Ille-et- 
Vilaine to this Department of Brittany. The 
upper part of the town is handsome with its Palace 
of Justice, Prefecture, Hotel de Ville, and Ca- 
thedral, while the other end of the town contains 
the Academies, the Lyceum, the University, and 
the Museums. But to the traveller the few nar- 
row, crooked streets which remain of mediaeval 
Rennes are far more interesting. The Museums 
are rich and important. 

Rennes is the birthplace of many well-known 
personages, among them Paul Feval the novelist, 

25 



26 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

the astronomer Binet, General Marbeuf, General 
Boulanger, the political agitator, and Rennes will 
long be remembered as the mise-en-scene of the 
most notable trial of the century in France — that 
of Captain Dreyfus. It was also the birthplace of 
the philosopher Descartes. 

The ancestors of Rene Descartes had for many 
years worn the robe. His father was Councillor 
of the Parliament of Brittany and the family was 
one of the most aristocratic of the Province. 
In the year 1596, this child came into the world. 
His family would not have believed that through 
him their name was destined to survive and that 
the beginning of Modern Philosophy was to date 
from this Breton town. For the richly robed 
Councillor was unable to understand the shy, mod- 
est, studious boy, and all Rennes considered Rene 
Descartes a good-for-naught. A single day suf- 
fices for Rennes and we pursue our journey toward 
the coast where more real interests await us. 

Our next stopping place is Dol — a queer little 
town, ancient and interesting. In olden time Dol 
stood in the heart of a mysterious forest. A legend 
tells us that this forest, from whose sacred oaks the 
Druids gathered mistletoe, was submerged by the 
ocean which, regardless of precedent, threatened 
to include the town. It was one Samson, formerly 
Archbishop of York, now the first Bishop of Dol, 
who came to the rescue. Through his prayers the 
waves receded, leaving the town intact. But the 




.••** I •■■■ 



E..2* ,-'-w- 






PHOTO BY FRANCES 



THE GREAT MENHIR OF DOL 



RENNES, DOL AND DU GUESCLIN 27 

forest was swept into the sea, parts of it attaching 
themselves to the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. 
Many of these oaks were deposited during the 
transit and have been found in the sands that sur- 
round Mont St. Michel. Naturally Samson has 
been the favourite Saint of Dol ever since. The, 
Cathedral bears the name of this guardian of the 
town and dates from the thirteenth century. 

The disappearance of this druidic forest gave 
rise to the famous Breton Legend of the Flood, 
one incident of which is related thus: "As the 
waters increased Amel the pastor and Penhor his 
wife are upon the point of being submerged. At 
this moment of peril Amel places Penhor, holding 
their child in her arms, upon his head for safety. 
As the water still rises, Penhor places the little 
one upon her head. The flood mounts higher and 
higher until the blonde head of the child and a bit 
of its blue gown appear upon the surface of the 
water. An angel flying heavenward perceives this 
bit of blue and gold and says: "There's a little one 
belonging to me," and proceeds to lift it. She finds 
it difficult because attached to the little Raoul is 
Penhor the mother, and she, in turn, is held fast 
by Amel the father. The angel, smiling, drops a 
tear as she beholds this cluster of hearts and will 
not separate them." 

The Cathedral of Dol, one of the most ancient 
in Brittany, is worthy of a visit. 

From Dol we travel to Pontorson. Pontorson is 



28 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

embedded in books and legends and offers little ot 
sightseeing to-day. It tells no modern story to the 
traveller. It leads a humdrum life of its own, and 
it is probable that none of its inhabitants, save pos- 
sibly the librarian and curator of the museum, has 
so much as heard of the soldier who, six centuries 
ago, was creating something of a commotion 
in its neighborhood. But in history Pontorson will 
ever be associated with the story of a Bad Boy — 
a Bad Breton Boy, who, contrary to all rules of 
ethics, and with no hatchet legend to start with, 
became the "Father of his Country" — the Protec- 
tor of his Country. Pontorson was the field of 
many a bold deed of the brave Captain — Bertrand 
Du Guesclin. 

A Picardy poet — Cuvelier — is his biographer. 
In the thirty thousand verses devoted to his sub- 
ject, he tells us frankly that in all the country be- 
tween Rennes and Dinan such a snub-nosed, 
swarthy, boorish and disagreeable person could not 
be found. He was ill-shapen and had greenish 
eyes. But his arms and hands were like steel, and 
in their lines one saw traces of good blood, such is 
the portrait traced in the poem. Paul Deroulede, 
in his play "Du Guesclin," gives a fine delineation 
of the brave, brusque, intrepid Captain, which 
role Coquelin interpreted to perfection, the ab- 
sence of facial beauty in the great comedian doing 
good service in his make-up, and the piece filled 
the Porte St. Martin theatre in the season of , 95~ , 96 



RENNES, DOL AND DU GUESCLIN 29 

with applauding Parisian audiences to the one hun- 
dredth representation. 

It is upon the fourteenth century trouvere, Cuve- 
lier, and upon Breton legends that we must rely 
for the story of the boy Du Guesclin. From these 
sources we know that Bertrand was born in 1320, 
and was the son of a Breton knight and noble dame. 
The Du Guesclin had far less fortune than lineage. 
So the beginnings of Bertrand were very modest 
if not very exemplary. He was of a surly nature, 
always in fights and turmoils, always striking or 
being struck. A nursery legend has it that when 
two years of age he had a way of amusing himself 
with a stick which made him the terror of ser- 
vants and visitors. Wherever he went a troop of 
scapegraces followed him, quarrelsome, insolent, 
imitating their leader. These he would arrange 
in two lines and compel to fight until parents and 
friends came to the rescue with poultices and plas- 
ters. He took them upon thieving expeditions, 
selling the booty at Rennes and coming home 
bruised in body and with clothing torn from head 
to foot. He made himself odious even to his par- 
ents. One legend tells us that whenever this boy, 
then at the age of nine, left his father's castle the 
town crier and his bell warned the population of 
Pontorson that Bertrand Du Guesclin was abroad. 

After many escapes and a six-months' imprison- 
ment in the tower of his father's castle, he escapes 
and gallops off to Rennes to the house of his uncle. 



30 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Now this uncie was an old soldier and able to ap- 
preciate such an extraordinary nephew, and we 
find the merry pair eating and drinking, fencing 
and riding from morning to night. The Bretons 
have always been famous wrestlers. Even to-day 
Paris and London sporting newspapers send cor- 
respondents to the little town of Scaer in Finis- 
tere to describe and photograph the wrestling 
matches which take place in every August. 

One Sunday there was a great wrestling match 
in Rennes. A hat ornamented with a hundred 
feathers was the prize offered to the victor. Judge 
of Bertrand's emotions when his aunt, to prevent 
his going to the match, took him to church with 
her to hear a sermon! Luckily for the boy she 
forgot to tie him to the bench as was her habit. 
Between two points of the sermon she looked 
around and he had vanished. Of course he turns 
up at the match, wins the prize, and wears the 
hundred-feathered hat home in triumph. Later 
when sixteen years of age, at a great tourney held 
in Rennes to celebrate the marriage of their duch- 
ess, we see Bertrand mounted on a fine horse win- 
ning fresh laurels. The fact of his father being 
among the spectators adds zest to the story. 

A certain beautiful maid of noble birth among 
the spectators that day lost her heart to the con- 
quering Bertrand. This was Typhaine Rageunel, 
who afterward became his wife. He came to be 
famous throughout Brittany and France for his 



RENNES, DOL AND DU GUESCLIN 31 

strength and bravery. Dinan, Pontorson and 
Motte-Broon have furnished popular songs in 
praise of him. He rose to be the greatest captain 
of his time, was made Constable of France, and 
became a close friend of his King, Charles V. At 
his death his body was borne through the kingdom 
in the midst of a population in tears, and he was 
buried at St. Denis among the kings of France. 
But Brittany claimed his heart and in the church 
of St. Sauveur at Dinan a cenotaph in white marble 
encloses this relic, above which is engraven the 
arms of Du Guesclin. All this and much besides 
we find in the thirty thousand verses of the poet 
who has been named: "The Homer of Du Gues- 
clin." 

But after all a single utterance of the great 
Breton soldier, taken from an address to his sol- 
diers as they were about to enter upon a campaign, 
gives the real keynote to his character. 

"Soldiers: 
In whatever country you may 
Make war do not forget what I 
Have told you a thousand times — 
That the clergy, the women, the 
Children and the poor are not 
Your enemies." 



CHAPTER VI 

FOLK-LORE AND JEANNE DE PONTORSON 

WHILE we are in the country of Du Guesclin we 
should take note of one of its legends. For Pontor- 
son, like every Breton town, has its legend — old 
tales stored away in the memory of the people, 
passing through many generations and repeated by 
the Bretons to-day. The Pontorson ballad bears 
the title : "The Vassal of Du Guesclin." 

But before reciting this ballad let us speak for 
a moment of the Breton folk-lore. It is doubtless 
true that while History records the official deeds 
of a people, we must seek the old songs to know 
the intimate life of a race. How many historic 
facts also hide themselves in legendary tales. Es- 
pecially is the moral truth visible through the 
transparent veil of the myth. Emile Souvestre 
says beautifully: "The wind of a century sweeps 
across a people and songs which tell what it saw 
and what it felt are born. Each song is a chapter 
of human life. It indicates the moral tempera- 
ment of the people to which it belongs. Confided 
to the memory of successive generations it retains 

32 



FOLK-LORE AND JEANNE DE PONTORSON 33 

something of each, and the philologist and folk- 
lorist find in the ensemble a foundation as easy to 
decipher as does the geologist the strata which 
he encounters." 

The folk-lore of all peoples offers striking analo- 
gies, being alike the na'ive expressions of the human 
heart. The variations are caused by the ruling 
characteristics of each nation, thus the expression 
of the southern race is passionate and proud; that 
of the northern people bold and warlike. The 
folk-songs of Germany are often child-like, naive 
and poetic. When we recall the "Tales of the 
Thousand and One Nights," we evoke impressions 
of the deep, blue, starry skies, gorgeous colours 
and perfumes. The old songs of North Scotland 
are warlike, bold, sometimes touched with gentle- 
ness. As for the Breton muse it shares the sim- 
plicity of the German, the gloom of the Scandi- 
navian and the melancholy of the Scotch. In the 
song: "The Vassal of Du Guesclin," as is often the 
case in the Breton songs, the denoument is indi- 
cated in the first few lines which serve as prologue. 
It is composed of several short scenes which re- 
cite the adventures of Jean of Pontorson and his 
Captain Du Guesclin, who commanded the armed 
troops of Pontorson in the wars against the Eng- 
lish. M. Villemarque translated this ballad from 
the Keltic into French. We give our rendering in 
English which is, as are all translations, unsatisfac- 
tory, even if faithfully rendered. 



34 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

PROLOGUE 

A great castle stands in the midst of a forest; 
all around it deep water, at each corner a tower; 
in the court of honour a pit filled with bones. And 

the heap grows higher with every night. 

****** 

The drawbridge of the castle falls easily, and 
he who enters never departs. 

Scene I 

Across the country held by the English a young 
Knight rode swiftly. 

A young Knight named Jean of Pontorson, 
As he rode past the castle at nightfall, 
He demanded hospitality of the chief sentinel. 
— Dismount, Oh! Knight, dismount and enter the 

castle, 
And put your bay steed in the stable 
Where he shall eat his fill of barley and of hay 
While you shall sup at the table of the Lord of the 

castle. 

Scene II 

Now as he supped at table with the armed men 
They spake not a word to Jean of Pontorson 
It was as if they were drunk. 
But they said to the young girl : 
"Mount Begana to the guest chamber 
And prepare the bed for this young knight our 
guest," 



FOLK-LORE AND JEANNE DE PONTORSON 35 

When the great bell of the castle struck the hour 

of midnight 
They led the young knight to the guest chamber. 

Scene III 

Now Jean of Pontorson was singing in his cnam- 
ber, 

Singing gaily in his chamber 

As he placed his ivory hunting horn by his bed- 
side. 

But Begana, pale and sighing, stood waiting si- 
lently. 

— "Begana, my pretty sister, tell me something, 

Why do you look at me thus and sigh?" 

— "Alas! Alas! if you but knew, dear master, 

You would not sing thus gaily in the night, 

For under your pillow there is a dagger. 

The blood of the third man they have slain 

Is not yet dry upon the blade. 

Oh! Knight, you are to be the fourth, 

Your silver, your gold and your arms, 

Everything except your bay steed have they taken." 

Scene IV 

Then Jean of Pontorson from under the pillow 
Drew forth a dagger. It was red with blood. 
— "Begana, dear sister, if you will but save me 
I will give you five hundred golden sous." 
— "I thank you, O Knight, but answer me first 
Are you wedded? or are you not?" 



36 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

— "I cannot deceive you, Begana, my sister, 

Only a fortnight have I been wedded. 

But I have three brothers, they are better than I, 

If it please your heart choose one of them." 

— "Nothing pleases my heart, neither man nor 

gold, 
Nothing pleases my heart but you, O Knight! 
Follow me, the drawbridge will not hinder, 
The sentry will not stop us, he is my brother." 
— Then said the knight to Begana the maid : 
"Mount, my sister, mount in the croup of my sad- 
dle 
And we'll ride to Guingamp to find my Captain, 
We shall see by what right I should have been 

slain. 
Let us ride to Guingamp where my right royal 

Guesclin 
Besieges the walls of Pestivien." 

Scene V 

"Oh! People of Guingamp, I greet you, 

I greet you in good faith. And my Lord Guesclin 

Tell me in God's name where is he?" 

— "If it is Lord Guesclin you seek, 

You will find him in the low tower in the hall of 

the barons." 
Then Jean of Pontorson, entering the hall, 
Walked straightway to Lord Guesclin. 
— "The grace of God be with you, my Lord Gues- 
clin, 




PHOTO BY FRANCE 



THE VIRGIN OF RUMERGOL 



FOLK-LORE AND JEANNE DE PONTORSON 37 

God protect you. And may you protect Jean of 

Pontorson, your vassal." 
— "The grace of God be with you also who speak 

thus courteously, 
He whom God protects should protect others. 
But what can be done for you? Tell me in few 

words." 
— "I have need of some one who will come to the 

borders of Pestivien. 
There are English there who oppress the people 

of the country 

Ravaging the country for seven leagues about, 

Whoever enters there is slain without pity. 

But for this young girl I also should have been 

slain, 
I should have been slain like many another. 
I have here the dagger still red with their blood." 
Then Du Guesclin cried out: "By the Saints of 

Brittany! 
So long as there shall be a live Englishman 
There will be neither peace nor law. 
Let them saddle my horse, let them bring me my 

arms and we are off." 

Scene VI 

Now the Lord of the Castle from the high tower 

of the battlements, 
Jeering, demanded of Du Guesclin: 



38 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

"Are you coming to a ball that you are thus tricked 
out, 

You and your soldiers?" 

— "Yes, by my faith! Lord Anglais, we are com- 
ing to a ball 

But it is not to dance, it is to make others dance, 

To make you dance a jig which will not soon be 
finished, 

For when we are tired the devils will take our 
place." 

At the first assault the walls trembled 
And the castle shook to its foundations. 
At the second assault three towers fell 
And two hundred men were slain, then two hun- 
dred more, 
At the third assault the gates were broken 
The Bretons rushed in and the castle was taken. 
The castle has been destroyed, the earth has been 

levelled. 
And the laborer now passes in his cart, 
And as he passes he sings: 
"Although the Englishman be a wicked traitor 
He shall not conquer Brittany so long as the stones 
of the Druids shall stand." 

The prophetic lines of this ancient ballad are 
sung to-day by the beggar minstrels of Brittany. 
Nor is Du Guesclin, Protector of Brittany, forgot- 
ten. 



CHAPTER VII 

MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND 

STANDING boldly off the coast at the point where 
Brittany joins her sister Province, Normandy, rises 
Mont St. Michel — town, castle and monastery 
combined. The town at the base of the rock, the 
platform of the walls, the castle rising above the 
wall, the monastery piled above the castle — and 
all, as if it were glued to the enormous rock. This 
gigantic pile stands in an estuary of the river 
Couesnon, which separates the two Provinces. Ac- 
cording to ancient chronicles both Normans and 
Bretons claimed the Mount and some mildly scorn- 
ful verses passed to and fro. The Bretons put it 
thus: 

"Le Couesnon dans sa folie 
A mis le Mont en Normandie." 

To which the Normans retorted: 

"Si bonne n'etait Normandie 
St. Michel ne s'y serait mis." 

39 



4 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Normandy, whether by the gentle logic of her 
rhymes or by more vigorous means, seems to have 
gained undisputed possession and to-day her only 
rival is the Bay of Cancale, which formerly at high 
tide turned the Mount into an island, while in low 
waters one reached the place on dry land. 

An English poet has named Cancale "the blue, 
savage, Norman bay" — "savage" because at the 
equinoxial period when the tide rises, instead of 
gradually advancing and receding, one great wave 
sweeps to the base of the rock and surrounds it. 
And woe betide the unlucky traveller if caught in 
its swift course. At low tide the danger is great 
because of the quicksands which, for centuries, 
have been a terror to pilgrims and travellers. A 
few years ago a causeway raised to a point of safety 
was constructed, and to-day one may reach the 
Mount without peril. 

Mont St. Michel was already famous in those 
days when brave knights rode away to the wars in 
the Holy Land. To-day it is valued as a monu- 
ment of art and for its ecclesiastical, civil and mili- 
tary history. "Rock, city, stronghold, cathedral" 
— representing the idea of Chivalry through 
Charlemagne and of Christianity through St. 
Louis, it stands a harmonious mass of grandeur and 
beauty. 

The journey from Pontorson to Mont St. 
Michel, until two years ago, was made by means of 
a clumsy old diligence. A tram-car, alas ! now con- 



MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND 41 

veys passengers, but the ancient vehicle is often 
preferred — always by us. The swing of it as it 
rolls noiselessly along the sands provokes revery 
and fancy. Flocks of sheep feed on the salt 
marshes at our left. Our diligence plods along and 
now we round a curve, and suddenly, as if swung 
against the sky whose blue is fast turning to gold 
as the sun goes down, looms the mighty Mount. 
Its walls and towers and flying buttresses are ablaze 
with sunset colours, while at its base the greys and 
violets blend hazily into a harmonious mass, turn- 
ing the solid masonry into dreamy lines of some 
fantastic castle. 

When we enter the first gate of the town, which 
lies along the base of the rock, we are confronted 
by a bit of history in the shape of two antiquated 
cannon abandoned by the besieging English in 
1434. We pass through a second gate, and, fol- 
lowing the queer narrow street, find ourselves at 
the entrance of the most enticing of kitchens. The 
interior of Madame Poulard's cuisine offers a sub- 
ject for a picture such as Teniers would have de- 
lighted to paint. Before a deep broad chimney with 
its roaring log fire stands our famous hostess. She 
has been painted by artists, sung by poets, and is 
known all over France as the Queen of Mont St. 
Michel. A double row of chickens strung upon 
long spits revolves slowly before the fire. They 
have reached that climax of colour and crispness 
that would tempt a saint into the sin of gluttony. 



42 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Madame Poulard, standing in the firelight, holds 
the handle, six feet long, of an immense frying 
pan in which an omelet — the famous traditional 
omelet of the Mount — is foaming and browning. 
She wears the daintiest of collars and cuffs, and a 
large apron protects her tidy black gown. She 
has never been known to lose her temper, nor has 
she lost her fine complexion, although for over a 
score of years she has roasted chickens and cooked 
the omelets that have made her little inn famous. 
The omelet, however, is not of her invention. It 
is to the monks of France that we owe this as many 
another good dish. We are told that the secret 
of this historic omelet has come down through 
centuries from the ancient kitchens of the 
Mount. 

In this unique inn there is no bell, no office, no 
answering boy. The dormitories are half way up 
the mountain. After we have dined and taken 
our coffee at one of the small tables outside in the 
narrow street, we receive from our hostess a smil- 
ing goodnight and a small paper lantern lighted 
by a candle end, bearing on its exterior the legend : 
"Poulard." A narrow flight of stone steps brings 
us from the street to the top of the inner wall of 
the town. We cross a bastion, round an eleventh 
century tower, creep timidly under archways, climb 
other flights of stone steps, mossy and worn, and 
at length reach the dormitory. Each separate bed- 
room commands a splendid view. We look down 



MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND 43 

into the narrow street where we lately took our 
coffee and see other little lanterns dancing hither 
and thither; we look up into the mysterious arches 
of the monastery standing solemnly against the 
night sky; and we look out and away across the 
sand to the sea. Whether below, above or sea- 
ward, all is weird and shadowy and dreamy in the 
light of a young moon. 

This moon has witnessed strange scenes in her 
time. Where the Bay of Cancale now lies shining 
in her light once stood oak forests wherein Druids 
celebrated their mysterious rites. 

Next morning our coffee and rolls came up to us 
fresh from the hands of our hostess, after which 
we explore the monastery. This must be always 
done with a guide. 

The monastery dates back to the year 704 when 
St. Aubert, of a rich and noble family, and arch- 
bishop of Avranches, was wont to dream and medi- 
tate in the forest of Scissy. St. Michael appeared 
to him in a dream and commanded him to build an 
edifice on the mountain in honour of him. At first 
St. Aubert put no faith in the vision nor did a 
second appearance move him. But a third mani- 
festation convinced his doubtful mind. It was 
claimed by some that in the strenuousness of this 
last appeal the finger of the archangel made its 
impression upon the forehead of the saint and 
some ardent polemics have resulted. The ques- 
tion has, however, been settled for the skull of St. 



44 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Aubert treasured in a church of Avranches shows 
"an oblong opening in the right pariental bone 
large enough for a finger to enter it!" 

St. Aubert constructed an edifice which was at 
first little more than a grotto. Finally a small 
temple was built and a college of twelve monks 
established. This little group found in St. Mi- 
chael an ever faithful ally, always aiding in any 
dilemma by miraculous means. 

Later on Pilgrimages began to take place. 
Every Pope sent valuable relics; every King and 
Emperor in Christendom went as pilgrims to the 
Mount, carrying rich offerings. Charlemagne 
added greatly to its fame. Dukes and Counts of 
the Province placed treasures at the feet of the 
statue which surmounted the temple. Mont St. 
Michel became a fad with popes, kings and 
people. 

The place figures in the Song of Roland, the 
Epic of France. And here a Knight of the Round 
Table slew a horrible giant who had for seven 
years subsisted on young children, but by way of 
variety one day seized the Duchess of Brittany 
and carried her off to his cave on the Mount. Thus 
the Mount figures in legends two hundred years 
earlier than the period of that of St. Aubert. 
Poets and novelists have found rich material here. 
The German poet Uhland makes use of one of the 
best-known legends in one of his poems, which our 
own Longfellow expresses in part in the verses 



MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND 45 

under the title: "The Castle by the Sea." Paul 
Feval has written many stories in which the 
legends of Mont St. Michel play a part. In the 
eleventh century when Robert the Devil of Nor- 
mandy was having his fling, his mad pranks fur- 
nished much gossip at the Mount. And the deeds 
of his son William the Conqueror added to its 
glory. The Mount makes its first and only ap- 
pearance in tapestry in the story woven by the 
Duchess Matilda's fair hands as she sat among 
her maidens and illustrated the story of her gal- 
lant lord in the curious web of the Bayeux Tapes- 
try. In one of the panels Harold is dragging two 
of his companions out of the treacherous quick- 
sands. Another panel describes other disasters in 
crossing the sands. She places figures curiously in 
the drawing — a minute temple is perched on the 
summit of a green hillock. 

As we wander through the gloomy arches see- 
ing on one hand the dungeons — veritable holes 
whence prisoners were seldom brought out alive 
— on the other hand oubliettes — all those under- 
ground horrors which some writer has named : "the 
black entrails of Mont St. Michel," we are op- 
pressed with the gloomy tales these granite blocks 
tell. In one of the lower vaults of the Abbey stood 
the "iron cage of the Cardinal." In the darkest of 
the dungeons many victims imprisoned by Louis 
XIV died of cold and hunger and gnawed by rats. 
Through these gloomy corridors, at one epoch of 



46 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

his imprisonment, walked the "Man of the Iron 
Mask." It is dark, a terrible record. 

The "Crypt of the Large Pillars" — twelve enor- 
mous columns, each twelve feet in circumference 
— excited wonder. But it is a relief to leave these 
dismal regions and ascend to the more cheerful 
"Hall of the Knights," which shows the more 
human side of the monastery. It is pleasant to 
imagine the gathering knights in mediaeval times 
when, bent on quest or tourney, they flocked to the 
Mount, sure of right royal cheer, for the monks of 
Mont St. Michel were noted for their hospitality. 
What turning of spits and unearthing of old wines 
took place at such times! What fires must have 
blazed in these wide-throated chimneys inside 
which a score of knights might stand! What rat- 
tling of armour and clanking of spurs and greet- 
ing of brothers-in-arms ran through these spacious 
halls! And we wander, up and down, and outside 
we stand on dizzy heights. From one of the tow- 
ers we admire the delicate flying buttresses. From 
a parapet we see the pinnacles and dainty carvings 
of the "Escalier des Dentelles" And we find our- 
selves in grim company up among the gargoyles 
— dogs, dragons, griffins, all sorts of fantastic, im- 
possible beasts — a solemn and silent company 
sternly guarding the secrets they know. 

Louis XIV converted parts of the Abbey into a 
prison. Louis XV continued to use it in the same 
manner. In 1790 the monks were dispersed and 



MONT ST. MICHEL AND ITS LEGEND 47 

the entire Abbey was used as a prison into which 
the Revolutionists hustled three hundred from Av- 
ranches and Rennes. Finally the Convention con- 
verted the place into a state prison. In 181 1 
Napoleon made it a Capital House, and the Res- 
toration turned it into a prison of Correction. 
Between 1793 and 1863, more than fourteen thou- 
sand prisoners were placed at Mont St. Michel. 
Many mutilations are the result of these changes. 
It has remained for the Ecole des Beaux Arts of 
France to do justice to the value of this historic 
place, by purchasing it, thus restoring to France 
a monumental treasure alike valuable to archaeolo- 
gist, artist, historian and ooet — to church and state. 



This description was written before the death of Madame 
Poulard. 



CHAPTER VIII 

ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND 

OUR travels thus far have been within the limits 
of that Department of Brittany known as Ille-et- 
Vilaine. We now enter the Department of the 
C6tes-du-Nord. A journey of two hours by rail 
from Pontorson brings us to St. Malo. 

St. Malo, built upon an island at the mouth of 
the river Ranee and connected in earlier times to 
the Continent by a causeway, has always repre- 
sented the ideal town of the mariner. It was, as it 
were, a huge ship anchored to the rocks. Many 
an adventurous sailor and explorer has hailed from 
this town by the sea, among them Jacques Cartier, 
the discoverer of Canada, and Jean Cadnec, a bold 
mariner, who, having landed on the island of 
Madagascar, so won the hearts of the natives that 
they made him their king. But after a few years 
he was seized with that homesickness which is 
sure to overcome the Breton absent from his Prov- 
ince, and he planned to return to his own country. 
So beloved by his subjects had he become that they 

48 



ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND 49 

preferred him dead to absent and in order to keep 
him to themselves, affectionately poisoned him. 
Still another St. Maloin on the list of famous mari- 
ners was Duguay-Trouin. His name has taken on 
somewhat of the fabulous, so ubiquitous and all- 
conquering was he, whether the hostile fleet were 
English, Dutch or Spanish. 

The streets of St. Malo are narrow and gloomy. 
But mount the ramparts and make a tour of the 
city. From these the view of land and sea is su- 
perb. Landward, the valley of the Ranee smil- 
ingly follows the course of its river, and seaward 
we have a broad ocean view, with Dinard close at 
hand. On a granite rock which at high tide is en- 
tirely surrounded by the sea, is the tomb of Cha- 
teaubriand. The simple low cross — whether from 
Christian humility or from vanity of the Poet — 
bears no inscription indicating the name of him 
who is entombed within the granite rock. In a 
chamber of our Hotel de France, which bears the 
number five, Chateaubriand was born in 1770. 
His name is held in great honour in St. Malo 
where his house and tomb are visited by travellers, 
his statue is on the chief public square and his 
portrait — that by Girondet, painted in 1809, al- 
ways the favorite one — is in the museum. 

Not too distant for an agreeable excursion is the 
Chateau at Combourg, where the childhood of 
Chateaubriand was passed. His account of that 
dreary chateau — the stern, unsympathetic, tyran- 



50 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

nical father — the timid, frightened mother — the 
awe-struck brother and sister sitting in the dark 
corner holding hands — the lonely days and nights 
passed by the boy in a remote attic of the chateau 
— the one ray of sunshine being the loving friend- 
ship of the sister Lucille — all these chapters are 
poignant — unforgetable. 

The young Chateaubriand was a dreamer. But 
his father's plans were for practical studies. 
Hence he mastered his logarithms at the college 
of Dol, consoling himself for this drudgery by 
reading a good deal of Horace. From Dol to the 
college of Dinan, after which he was sent to Brest 
to study the art of naval construction. It appears 
that he had a habit of peering beyond the ship- 
yard far out upon the sea. Practical studies van- 
ished in dream's vagaries. Finding that his 
father's plans were likely to end in nothing, they 
tried the mother's — to make a priest of him. But 
when we follow this young Breton out into the 
world, it is not as priest. He is still only a 
dreamer. 

Paris was on the verge of a Revolutionary strug- 
gle. Malesherbes, who was a family connection, 
took pity on the young man and sent him off upon 
those travels which brought him to our shores. 
This was in 1791. Armed with letters to General 
Washington, he embarks at St. Malo and lands in 
Baltimore, which he describes as "a pretty town, 
clean and animated." His impressions read to- 




FRANCOIS AUGUSTE RENE DE CHATEAUBRIAND 

1768-1848 



ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND 51 

day are curious and interesting. For instance he 
finds "Philadelphia lacking in ancient monuments, 
and the people have customs rather than man- 
ners — a society without ancestry and without 
souvenirs, but great elegance in clothing, luxury 
in equipage, frivolity in conversation and immor- 
ality in the banking houses." 

Boston makes a happy escape. Recalling the 
impressions of Philadelphia, one trembles at the 
thought of the opinion our traveller might have 
had of the city on Beacon Hill. But when our 
explorer visits that town it is for the sole purpose 
of making a pilgrimage to Lexington to salute 
the first battlefield of American Liberty. He 
writes : "I have seen the Field of Lexington. Like 
the traveller to Thermopylae I stood there silent 
and reverent." He finds New York gay, crowded 
and commercial. 

He gives his first impressions of General Wash- 
ington of whom he speaks as "The Dictator." See- 
ing him pass in a carriage he writes: "According 
to my ideas Washington was nothing less than a 
Cincinnatus, and Cincinnatus in an ordinary car- 
riage upset somewhat my Roman-Republic ideas. 
But when I took my letters of introduction to this 
great man I found in him the simplicity of the old 
Roman." We find that he was cordially received 
by General Washington, and, winning his way by 
some happy response, was invited to dinner. Long 
afterward, in 1822, he writes of this meeting: "I 



52 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

am happy in the remembrance that his eyes have 
rested upon me. There is virtue in the glance of a 
great man." 

He finds his mission as explorer rather sterile, 
for he had started with great ideas concerning the 
North-West Passage. But he conscientiously 
crossed the Blue Mountains, and, arriving at Chil- 
licothe, he encounters the muse of his future ro- 
mance "Natchez." And on the shores of the 
river Ohio he finds that the New World possesses 
ancient monuments. In the mounds of that region 
he sees the debris of ancient civilization. More- 
over he discovers what an American sunset is like, 
and he paints it on future pages. And he sees 
Niagara, and visits the Indian Nations. But as 
explorer and recorder he is far more poetic and 
romantic than practical, and his observations yield 
their only harvest in his three books: "Rene," 
"Atala" and "Natchez." His temperament fitted 
him for the place he held in French literature — 
as pioneer in the Romantic School of writers in 
which Lamartine, Alfred de Vigny, Victor Hugo, 
Alfred de Musset and Beranger find their place. 
As years pass we see Chateaubriand in many and 
diverse phases. As royalist banished to the Isle 
of Jersey and to England, where in London in a 
mansard in Holborn he reads day and night books 
ancient and modern. We note the passing ro- 
mance of. Charlotte Ives — a romance that ended 
with the knowledge that her chevalier was already 



ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND 53 

married. For a money-marriage had been ar- 
ranged for him by his family in which we find 
only feeble glimmers of affection late in life. 

From England back to Paris, where he pub- 
lished his first book and frequented the teas of 
Madame O'Larry, where his proud and melan- 
choly air sufficed to make him the hero of the 
circle. Later on we see him among other friends 
— Fontanes, the Delilles and the delicate and ad- 
mirable Joubert, who became his affectionate ad- 
mirer and at the same time his salutary critic. 

The publication of his "Genius of Christianity," 
chancing to be coincident with the "Concordat," 
caused France to believe that a veritable religious 
renaissance had dawned. Chateaubriand suddenly 
found himself famous. 

Then comes the friendship of Madame de Beau- 
mont, which was a real providence to him. At 
her salon in the Rue Neuve-du-Luxembourg he be- 
came the central figure. Joubert thus describes the 
circle: "It was a modest group — the debris of the 
Terror — a tranquil intimate company gathered 
around a single lamp, to whom a modest glass of 
eau sucree or of orangeade sufficed for refresh- 
ment." Later on we see him pay hommage to 
Napoleon and accept a position in the Embassy at 
Rome. Madame follows him and dies there. 
Then came years of alternate triumph and failure, 
and lastly, himself forty -eight and Madame Reca- 
mier thirty-nine — from 1816 to 1848 — we follow 



54 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

him through the period of their friendship. He 
sends her a letter every morning and the invariable 
daily visit at three in the afternoon afforded the 
inhabitants of the rue de Sevres, it is said, the 
means of regulating their timepieces. At the fre- 
quent receptions of Madame Recamier — the 
charming hostess of the Abbaye-aux-Bois — we lis- 
ten to him in the reading of his "Memoirs," which 
were the especial preoccupation of his hostess. 
Among the listeners we find Miss Edgeworth, 
Miss Berry, the Duchess of Devonshire, Benja- 
min Constant and Sainte-Beuve, and later on 
Prosper Merimee, Toqueville, Victor* Hugo and 
Lamartine. And then in 1848, he dies in the little 
house in the rue de Babylon. But always we find 
Chateaubriand turning towards Brittany with 
loyal affection. Years before his death he had 
chosen for his tomb this rock of St. Malo. On 
July fourth, of the fiftieth anniversary of the death 
of Chateaubriand, we joined a brilliant group of 
French men of letters, gathered in the old town of 
St. Malo. In the morning high mass in the Cathe- 
dral and a sermon by Pere Olivier, the eloquent 
preacher of Notre Dame, an oration by Brune- 
tiere in the afternoon and a banquet in the evening, 
an immense procession in which the peasants of 
all the country about joined made a pilgrimage to 
the tomb where eminent Academicians spoke — 
altogether a great day for St. Malo and an honour 
to the name of Chateaubriand. 



ST. MALO AND CHATEAUBRIAND 55 

A few feet from the tomb of Chateaubriand we 
find the birthplace of another whose fame bids fair 
to equal that of the author of the "Genius of Chris- 
tianity." But we like better to speak of Felix de 
Lamennais under the oaks of La Chenaie a little 
later on in our travels. 



CHAPTER IX 

A FOLK-SONG OF ST. MALO 

THE narrow streets of the old portion of St. 
Malo are gloomy because of the medieval houses 
which, like those we saw at Vitre, almost meet at 
top above the narrow streets, so that from the 
upper windows two people might converse in 
whispers. That such opportunities were not lost 
upon the Romeos and Juliets of the olden time is 
apparent from a folk-song embodying a famous 
legend of St. Malo. 

The student of ancient Breton songs finds him- 
self under infinite obligations to a woman. It was 
Marie of France who has given us many of these 
old songs, translated by her from the Keltic into 
French and dedicated to Henry II of England — 
lays of Tristram and Yseult, and of Parsifal. It 
is to her we owe the translation of this old song: 
"The Nightingale." 

While the Breton temperament finds its most 
perfect expression in poems of adventure, in fan- 
tastic tales, strange combats of men and beasts of 

56 



A FOLK-SONG OF ST. MALO 57 

supernatural power, tales of magic fountains and 
miracles, the Breton did not scorn a love song and 
a very human one such as we now quote. 

Like the Pontorson ballad which we have given 
the denouement is indicated at the start. We fore- 
see the pathetic ending in the two verses which 
form the Prologue. Thus: 

"A young wife of St. Malo was weeping yesterday 

at her dormer window, 
Alas! Alas! I am lost, my poor nightingale is 

dead." 

Then the story begins : 

"Tell me, my young wife, why do you rise so otten? 
So often from my side, so often from your bed at 

midnight 

Bare head and bare feet? Why do you thus rise 

at midnight?" 
— "If I rise, dear lord, at midnight from my bed, 
It is because I love to see the great ships come and 

go in the bay." 
' — "It is surely not for a ship that you go so often 

to the window, 
It is not for a ship, neither for two ships, nor for 

three, 
It is not to watch the ships nor is it for the moon 

and stars. 
Madame, tell me why every night you thus rise?" 
— "I rise to watch my little baby in his cradle." 



58 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

— "Neither is it to watch a baby — to watch a baby 
sleeping, 

I have no need of tales being told to me. Why do 
you thus rise?" 

— "My little old man do not be anxious, I am go- 
ing to tell you, 

It is the nightingale that I hear every night sing- 
ing, 

Sitting on the rosebush in the garden. 

It is a nightingale that I hear every night. He 
sings so sweetly, 

So marvellously, so harmoniously all the night 
long, 

All the night long when the sea is calm. 

When the old Duke heard this he pondered in the 
depths of his heart. 

When the old Duke heard this he spake thus to 
himself: 

— "Whether this be true or whether it be false 

The nightingale shall be caught." 

Next morning upon rising he sought the gardener. 

— "Good gardener, listen to me, there is something 
which troubles me, 

There is in the thicket a nightingale, 

A nightingale that does nothing but sing all the 
night long, 

That sings the whole night long so loudly that it 
wakens me. 

If by this very evening you shall have caught it 

I will give you a golden sou." 




S3 



x . 



HH O 



A FOLK-SONG OF ST. MALO 59 

The gardener, having heard this, laid a little snare 
And caught the nightingale and brought it to his 

master. 
And when the Duke saw it he laughed from the 

bottom of his heart. 
And he strangled it and threw it in the white bosom 

of his wife. 

— "Here, here, my young wife, here is your pretty 

nightingale ; 
It is for your sake that I have strangled it. 
I dare say, my beauty, that it will give you joy." 
Learning the news, the young lover at his dormer 

over the way 
Said sadly: "We are suspected, my sweet one, 

and I, 
And never again shall I see her at her window 
At midnight in the moonlight as I was wont to do." 

The thesis of this song, "The Nightingale," is 
quite popular with the Breton. Given an old and 
jealous husband, a young and beautiful wife, and 
an admiring young man at a distance and the cast 
is complete. There are three distinct Bluebeard 
legends in Breton folk-lore, the most thrilling of 
which has been wonderfully told by Leconte de 
Lisle in his "Poemes Barbares," but of these later 
on. 

A ferry crossing of fifteen minutes brings one 
from St. Malo to Dinard, the most fashionable sea- 



6o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

shore resort in France. To heighten its attraction 
for Americans it is named the Newport of France. 
To a serious traveller in Brittany Dinard has lit- 
tle to say. But a charm lingers on the cliffs of St. 
Enogat, a mile from Dinard. Almost the first 
letter, perhaps the very first written by Robert 
Browning after the death of his wife, was ad- 
dressed to his friend Lord Leighton. A sentence 
from this letter gives the immediate plans of the 
Poet thus : "I shall go to some quiet place in France 
to get right again — I don't mean to live with any- 
body, even my own family, but to occupy myself 
thoroughly, etc." In August — Mrs. Browning 
having died in June — we find him at St. Enogat. 
On these cliffs he used to take those long lonely 
walks described in his letters. 



CHAPTER X 

DINARD, DINAN AND EXCURSIONS 

INSTEAD of wasting time in Dinard let us board 
the little steamer that plies the river Ranee from 
St. Malo to Dinan. The valley of the Ranee is 
a continuous scene of rocks and verdure, of sunny 
shores, of old manor houses and castles of feudal 
Brittany and gay villas of modern Brittany. For 
not until we reach Finistere shall we really find 
our unspoiled Province, although a romantic in- 
terest pervades this section through which we are 
travelling. 

Our boat passes the tower of Solidor — "Ram- 
pared Solidor" of Browning's poem "Herve Riel." 
Not until we approach Dinan do we see the cha- 
teau de la Belliere with its seven octagonal chim- 
neys with capitals and pinnacles — otherwise a plain 
structure of granite, as melancholy as the avenue 
of fir-trees leading to the entrance. It was at la 
Belliere that Typhaine, the wife of Du Guesclin, 
spent the greater part of her life. Here she 
wrought her tapestries, prayed in her oratory, con- 

61 



62 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

ducted the affairs of her household and here she 
died. In her chamber we see a fine tapestry, a 
prie Dieu and a Crucifix. 

Typhaine Du Guesclin had the reputation of be- 
ing a clever woman. The blue stocking of her 
Province, it would appear — and she seems beside 
to have been a paragon of beauty, sweetness and 
devotion. She loved her rather ferocious husband 
from that day when she saw him as we did, an un- 
known competitor, enter the lists at the tournament 
at Rennes and win the laurels from his rivals. It 
was whispered about among the castles of the 
Ranee that Typhaine was versed in the science of 
astrology. But perhaps her chief skill lay in di- 
vining the nature of her warrior husband and 
turning his prowess into generous and patriotic 
channels. For her biographers have called her: 
"The conscience of Du Guesclin." She may or 
may not have lingered among the chimneys of her 
castle to consult the constellations, but she knew 
how to read the heart of her lord which she be- 
lieved to be just and generous. Truly the walls of 
La Belliere five and a half centuries ago sheltered 
two very exceptional personages. 

fimile Souvestre has described Dinan as "cor- 
seted in antique walls, dotted with smiling little 
houses and embroidered with flower gardens." 
This description is as true as it is poetic. Such is 
Dinan to-day. But it is the story of the ancient 
Dinan town of the old dukes and counts, scene of so 



DINARD, DINAN AND EXCURSIONS 63 

many thrilling adventures of the knights of medie- 
val history that most interest the traveller. The 
town is placed boldly upon a height of a hundred 
and fifty feet on the left shore of the Ranee and 
thus occupied an impregnable position in time of 
war. A statue of Du Guesclin on the public square 
marks the scene of the famous duel between him 
and Canterbury, fought in the presence of the most 
valiant knights and noble dames of Brittany and 
ending in the proud victory of the Breton Cap- 
tain. Narrow and crooked streets with ancient 
houses are numerous. 

The environs of Dinan claim special attention. 
A drive of four miles brings us to the ruins of a 
sixteenth century castle. Some splendid granite 
walls and an octagonal three-storied tower of the 
style of the Renaissance with beautifully carved 
windows are all that remain of the castle of La 
Garaye. But the avenue, seven hundred feet long, 
with its double rows of beech trees, is as beautiful 
now as in the days when count and countess gal- 
loped beneath its shade among the gay folk of the 
country and their guests. For La Garaye was 
noted for its hospitalities and the extravagant pur- 
suit of pleasure on the part of its host. But mis- 
fortune came. The Lord of La Garaye became an 
invalid, and the Countess was crippled from a fall 
from her horse, after which both seemed to have 
been little less than saints. They went to Paris, 
where they studied medicine, making diseases of 



64 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

the eye a specialty, and afterwards built hospitals 
on their estates, the ruins of which we find to-day. 
Here they nursed the sick among the poor of all 
the country about, devoting the remaining days of 
their lives to this occupation. The story has now 
become only the "Legend of La Garaye," but the 
roses still clamber and blossom upon the ruined 
tower of their castle. We gathered a handful of 
the loveliest, for we had learned that the burial 
place of the Lord and Lady of the Castle was out- 
side a little church in the parish of Taden, a few 
miles distant, and we had thought of placing some 
of these very roses upon their tombs. This pious 
pilgrimage was made the next day. The little 
church of Taden is queer and ancient. We found 
the tombs — very desolate and neglected they were 
— in one of the angles of the outer walls of the 
church, the carvings so nearly obliterated that we 
made out the names and devices with difficulty. 
We laid the roses upon the two barren, dusty 
graves — the tribute of a passer-by, a foreigner, 
three hundred years after the events which had 
made the record of this Lord and Lady Bountiful 
worthy of homage. 

The Honourable Mrs. Norton follows a part of 
the legend in one of her poems, and Mrs. Louise 
Chandler Moulton has written a poem with the 
title: "The Roses of La Garaye," in which she 
twines a light modern fancy about the legend. 

There are other excursions to be made from 



DINARD, DINAN AND EXCURSIONS 65 

Dinan. To the Abbey of Lehon only a mile dis- 
tant, and to what remains of the castle of Coetguen. 
The beggars of the C6tes-du-Nord still sing an 
ancient ballad, "The Lady of Coetguen," which 
tells the story of the beautiful Blanche of St. Malo, 
married to a Lord of Coetguen; tells how she was 
imprisoned in the dungeon of the great tower and 
how she died in her gloomy prison. But space 
forbids the telling of all the romantic tales which 
cluster about the ruined castle of the Ranee — tales 
of feudal Brittany and of her dukes and counts. 



CHAPTER XI 

FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 

BUT there is one excursion to be made from 
Dinan which lies very near the heart. 

To those who sympathize with the experiences 
and sorrows of a man unfortunately born a cen- 
tury before his time — to such as appreciate the 
genius and the sacrifices of Felix de Lamennais, 
this bit of paradise where he passed the only 
happy years of his life becomes the shrine of a 
loving pilgrimage. Doubtless many of us, at- 
tracted by the charming mention made by Mr. 
Mathew Arnold of Maurice de Guerin, had our 
first glimpse of La Chenaie from the pages of the 
journal and letters of this young poet of the south 
of France — records of the period when he was one 
of the group of disciples of the host of this fine old 
manor house. The place possesses all the beauty 
ascribed to it by the pen of the young poet who 
had shivered through the rather gloomy winter 
months. But it is far more valuable through its 
association with the Breton whose printed words 

66 



FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 67 

not only stirred the public of Paris, but made them- 
selves felt at the Vatican. Here lived a man whom 
France scorned and whom she buried like a 
pauper. Sixty years later his ideas came to be, to 
a certain extent, those of Pope Leo XIII and of 
eminent sociologists. Some one has defined him 
as a sociologist in the Church, in other words a 
"Christian Socialist." 

At St. Malo we saw the house in which he was 
born in 1782 — thirteen years after Chateaubriand. 
But it is at La ChenaTe that we like best to meet 
him. Hither he was sent after the death of his 
parents to spend his boyhood in the charge of an 
uncle who was owner of this property. Although 
he was ten years of age and remarkably intelligent, 
he scarcely knew how to read. But there was a 
library at La Chena'fe — a library in which there 
were not only books of piety for edification, but 
classics of Greece and Rome and the works of 
Voltaire, Montaigne and Rousseau, as well as 
books of theology and ecclesiastical history. To 
one analyzing the mental and moral character of 
Lamennais the man, the catalogue of the library 
in which the young Felix browsed is a factor of 
importance. The boy was given to escapades of 
various kinds and the uncle, by way of punishment, 
was in the habit of locking him in this library. 
For the sake of amusing himself, he soon learned 
to read. After which he devoured everything 
which came to hand. His passion for reading be- 



68 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

came such that he used to commit some little fault 
in order to secure a fresh imprisonment. 

In his twenties they made him priest. The 
world now knows the unintentional wrong done 
to the soul of the man who, under peculiar mental 
conditions which he could not master, allowed 
himself to be led into what proved a false step. 

After a few years he is in Paris editing the 
newspaper L'Avenir, aided by Lacordaire and 
Montalembert, at that time his ardent disciples. 

Of a nature as noble as it was sincere, ardent and 
visionary, Felix de Lamennais dreamed of a kind 
of progressive Christianity. He indicated to the 
Church the only course that could lead it to a 
reconciliation with modern nations. Every word 
he uttered or wrote was chivalric and disinterested. 
He besought the Church to separate itself from 
the debris of kings and kingdoms, and to lend 
itself to consider the miseries and sufferings of the 
people — to apply the balm of comfort. He be- 
lieved in a universal transformation of Society 
under the influence of Catholicism. He sought 
to reconcile Religion and Liberty. Meanwhile he 
held Rome and Gregory XVI in affection. He 
believed the Pope could but sympathize with the 
aims and hopes of L'Avenir. 

The bold doctrines of Lamennais took every- 
body by surprise — clerical and laity. The young 
clergy sympathized with him and at La Chenai'e 
a group of enthusiastic disciples gather. There 



FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 69 

were Lacordaire, Montalembert, Maurice de 
Guerin, the Abbe Gerbert, Charles St. Foi and 
others. What a household it was! A lovely house 
on the border of the fine forest of Coetguen, of 
cheerful aspect, coiffed in mansards. Opposite the 
house across the lawn a fine chapel; beyond a large 
and beautiful garden. Inside the house there were 
books and fine conversation; outside there were 
sunshine, birds and tranquillity. It was in this en- 
vironment that this group of enthusiastic young 
men gathered about a man devoid of exterior 
grace, small, plain, with the ascetic look which we 
see in the face of Dante. But under his inspira- 
tion what studies in Art, History, Philosophy and 
Belles Lettres went on! Years after, Charles St. 
Foi wrote of him : "He had the timidity of a child ; 
if you looked at him he was disturbed, if you 
praised him he was embarrassed, reduced to si- 
lence. What must one do! Listen to him as a 
disciple listens to a master." 

Maurice de Guerin, in a letter dated 1833, 
writes: "In the evening after supper we gathered 
in the salon. He throws himself upon or rather 
into an immense sofa — an old piece of furniture 
in crimson ribbed velvet, which stands under the 
portrait of his grandmother, in which one notes 
some of the features of the grandson. It is the 
hour for conversation. One entering the salon at 
this hour will see there in the corner a head — little 
more than the head, the rest of the body being ab- 



70 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

sorbed by the sofa — eyes shining like rubies, voice 
sometimes grave, sometimes ironical, and now and 
then bursts of shrill laughter. It is our man — it 
is Lamennais." 

But Rome regarded him and his newspaper with 
suspicion. The Pope had hitherto held him in 
esteem and admiration — had even designated him 
for the position of Cardinal. But a Sociologist 
within the Church was a thing not to be consid- 
ered. And Rome frowned upon the newspaper, 
and its group of collaborators. The moral situa- 
tion became embarrassing to Lamennais and he 
decided to go to Rome and take council upon the 
course to pursue. 

His reverence for the Pope was perfect. "And 
what if we are censured?" asks Montalembert en 
route. "We cannot be censured," responded La- 
mennais, so absolute was his faith in his cause and 
in the Pope. 

There are few journeys on record that, in the 
present light, seem so pathetic as this of these 
"three pilgrims for God and Liberty" as Lamen- 
nais, Lacordaire and Montalembert called them- 
selves. Zola in his "Rome" has taken his Pierre 
Froment through paths and experiences that pre- 
sent many parallels to those of Felix de Lamen- 
nais. The resemblance is too striking to escape 
attention. Zola might have found — possibly did 
find — the model for the plot of his "Rome" in this 
episode in the life of Lamennais. 



FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 71 

"Oh! the pitiless attitude of Rome toward this 
great apologist for the Church!" exclaims a French 
writer of our day. 

Felix de Lamennais had seen in the Roman 
Catholic Church the predestined emancipator of 
nations. He had believed profoundly in his mis- 
sion both social and religious. To-day he would 
be welcomed by the great and good man at the 
Vatican. Even after the death of Gregory XVI, 
the new Pope Pius IX sought this straying sheep 
and sent him a message. "Tell him I am waiting 
to bestow my benediction upon him and to embrace 
him." 

It was too late. Lamennais, disillusionized, has 
broken with the Church and given himself to the 
People. His "Book of the People" and "The Past 
and Future of the People," written during the 
years spent in the prison of St. Pelagie, where he 
was held as a political prisoner, treat of social and 
civil ethics, and might safely serve as handbooks 
for discontented masses to-day. His book, "Words 
of a Believer," published after his break with the 
Church, produced great excitement in Paris. 
Sainte Beuve tells us that "even in the printing of- 
fice among the typesetters the enthusiasm was so in- 
tense that the work came to a standstill." In fact 
this little book, scarcely more than a brochure, 
caused a tumult in public opinion, a chaos of ideas 
and sentiments. It had its reading at Rome and 
it was read by every blue-bloused workman in 



-J2 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Paris. A contemporary wrote: "A priest is stir- 
ring up all Europe. What has he done? He has 
changed — not God, but the manner of serving 
Him. He has made of the Cross of Christ a stand- 
ard of Liberty." Literary critics pronounced the 
little book a work of art — a great poem. 

The French Government called it a "dangerous 
book." In this Jeremiah lamenting the fate of 
nations it saw an enemy to be feared. In order to 
show the real spirit and motive of this man, 
spurned by Rome, scorned by France, persecuted 
by the Government, let us read together the short 
preface of this so-called "dangerous book," "The 
Words of a Believer": 

"To the people. This book has been written 
chiefly for you. It is to you I offer it. May it, in 
the midst of so many ills which are your inherit- 
ance, of so many griefs which oppress you, revive 
and console you. To you who are bearing the 
burden of the day, I would that it might be to 
your poor tired souls what the shade of a tree in a 
corner of the field at midday is to him who has 
toiled all the morning under the burning rays of 
the sun. You are living in evil times, but these 
times will pass. After the rigors of the winter 
Providence brings a more gentle season, and the 
little bird in its song blesses the kind hand which 
has brought him warmth and plenty and his mate 
in the warm nest. Hope on and love on. Hope 
softens everything and Love makes everything 



FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 73 

easy. Be patient. Pray to God that he may lessen 
your trials. Now it is Man who judges and who 
punishes. Soon it will be He who will judge. 
Happy he who shall behold this justice. I am 
old. Listen to the words of an old man. The 
earth is dry and melancholy but it will revive. 
The breath of the wicked will not always pass over 
it like a flame which consumes. Whatever hap- 
pens Providence desires that it should serve for 
your instruction in order that you shall know how 
to be good and just when your hour shall come. 

"When those who have abused power shall have 
passed away like the debris in a storm, then you 
will understand that good alone is enduring, and 
you will fear to soil the air which the winds of 
heavens have purified. Prepare your souls for this 
hour, for it is not far distant. It approaches. Re- 
form that in yourselves which needs tq be re- 
formed. Exercise yourselves in all the virtues 
and love one another as the Saviour of the human 
race has loved you, even unto death." 

Through all these years Lamennais was appre- 
ciated by the few and calumniated by the many. 
Intrigues sprang up on every side. Lamennais 
was proud in his revolt. His soul was tormented, 
but his heart was warm for mankind. He was in- 
deed a Jeremiah lamenting over the fates of na- 
tions, but he did something besides. Some one 
has said of him: "He roared like a lion, but he 
wept like a mother." 



74 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

It is a relief to see him done with affairs 
at Rome, and in 1848, representing the democracy 
of Paris in the Assembly as his friend Beranger 
had done, even though his utterances from the Ex- 
treme Left land him in the prison of St. Pelagie. 

Still more agreeable is it to note his last years, 
even though they were years of extreme poverty. 
His great love of music won him the friendship 
of Liszt, Chopin and George Sand. Among his 
friends were Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Arago 
and Mazzini. His pages upon Gothic Art and 
upon the Beautiful in Music prove him an ardent 
lover of the arts. His analysis of the genius of 
Beethoven has been pronounced a masterpiece. 
George Sand gives her first impressions of Lamen- 
nais whom Liszt presented to her thus: "He was 
small, thin, poverty-stricken, and seemed to have 
the merest breath of life in his body. But what a 
head! His clear eyes sparkled — the narrow fore- 
head marked with vertical lines — a smiling, mobile 
mouth — altogether a face strongly marked for a 
life of renunciation and contemplation." In the 
character of Spiridion George Sand has delineated 
the traits of Lamennais as she comprehended them. 

Felix de Lamennais died in poverty, thinking 
to the last of the people and their wrongs. At his 
death the people mourned their loss. But they 
were not permitted to follow him to his burial. 
The Government forestalled any possible demon- 
stration of affection on their part by surrounding 



FELIX DE LAMENNAIS 75 

the small procession of intimate friends with 
squads of policemen. He was buried in the Pot- 
ters Field of Pere Lachaise. 

To-day France would gladly gather the ashes 
of this son of Brittany and raise a monument above 
them, but no one knows the place of his burial. 
A street in the quarter of the Champs Elysees 
bears his name; scholars, statesmen and sociologists 
talk and write of him and the Church accepts, to 
a marked degree, the doctrines for holding which 
he was condemned. At a meeting of the Catholic 
Club on the rue du Luxembourg in Paris several 
years ago, I heard a distinguished abbe, in closing 
a lecture on Felix de Lamennais, say: "In fact the 
Church to-day needs just such a man as Felix de 
Lamennais." 

Sitting under the oaks of La Chenai'e, the story 
of his life is vividly recalled. And inside the 
house we find the same arrangement of rooms as 
described in the Journal of Maurice de Guerin. 
A bust of Lamennais on the mantel in the salon at- 
tests the sympathy of the occupant of the place. 
Otherwise there is no trace of the great mind that 
was once Master here. But we must seek him in 
his "Essays," in his "Words of a Believer," in his 
"Book for the People." His translation of Dante 
and of the "Imitations," to which he added his own 
"Reflections" are the only books that at any time 
brought him an income. 



CHAPTER XII 

GUINGAMP, PAIMPOL AND PIERRE LOTI 

From Dinan we travel by rail to Guingamp. 
One visits Guingamp not only because of its his- 
torical interests, it having played an important role 
in the Hundred Years war, but also for the sake 
of its churches. And if possible plan to visit Guin- 
gamp at the time of the annual Pardon of Notre- 
Dame de Bon Secours, which occurs on the Satur- 
day before the first Sunday in July. Each Par- 
don has its special features. In that of Guingamp 
the great procession takes place in the evening. 
It forms and sets out from the church at nine 
o'clock. The statue of the Virgin, one of the Black 
Virgins of which we shall speak in another 
place, was honoured by the Pope some years ago, 
a crown of gold being brought from Rome by 
a papal delegation. The Virgin adorned in this 
crown and clothed in a robe of cloth of gold, is 
borne in state, placed upon a platform, which is 
carried on the shoulders of ten men dressed in 
white. Every person in the procession — many 

76 



GUINGAMP, PAIMPOL AND PIERRE LOTI 77 

thousands altogether — carries a lighted candle and 
the effect of these moving myriads of lights is most 
beautiful. Every pilgrim as he marches sings the 
familiar Canticle of the Virgin of Guingamp. 

A famous bit of old Breton music is the march 
of the "Men of Guingamp," who in the fourteenth 
century raised the siege held by the English and 
restored Guingamp to its rightful possessor. It is 
always the favourite march of the Bards all over 
Brittany. We march to the banquets and we 
march from the banquets always to the measure 
of this old-time tune, which is also sung to a na- 
tional hymn. "Oh! Breiz Izel." Certain musi- 
cians have found in this march the theme em- 
ployed by Wagner in his wedding March in Lo- 
hengren. 

From Guingamp our travels bring us among 
quite another type of Breton life and character. 
At Paimpol, the country of Pierre Loti's "Pech- 
eurs d'Islande," we shall encounter the people 
whom we have already met in the pages of that 
beautiful book. But this prose poem Paimpol, 
smiling amid her rocks unnoticed by the traveller, 
even now retains much of its tranquillity and 
charm. 

The journey from Guingamp to Paimpol is a 
matter of several hours and is altogether agree- 
able. How well we recall our first visit there. It 
was in the deepening twilight of a Sunday even- 
ing in July that we were deposited at the entrance 



78 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

of the Hotel Michel, which faces the public 
square. A peculiar fascination caused us to for- 
get the dinner hour and sent us wandering about 
the little town. We knew beforehand that Paim- 
pol was unusually sad this year. There had been 
many disasters in the Iceland waters and scores 
of widows and orphans were sorrowing over their 
losses. Silence and melancholy pervaded the 
place. 

During a visit at Paimpol a few months before, 
we had witnessed the ceremonial of the blessing 
of the fishing boats at the annual departure, which 
takes place at the end of winter. The boats, 
decked with flags, lay in the harbour and the men 
already on board awaited the benediction. An 
altar was built upon the quay, on which the queer 
little faience Virgin — Protector of sailors — was 
enthroned. The priest, walking under a canopy, 
bore the Holy Sacrament. Wives, mothers, sisters 
and sweethearts followed in procession. The 
priest, stopping before each boat, uttered the bene- 
diction. Then we had seen the little squadron set 
out, leaving Paimpol void of fathers, husbands, 
brothers and lovers. As they sailed away they 
sang in chorus the Hymn of Mary, Star of the 
Sea, and the women watched tearfully each little 
craft until it disappeared from the horizon. How 
many processions of women have I watched as 
they passed up and down the shore, singing in 
mournful tones that time-honoured hymn of de- 



GUINGAMP, PAIMPOL AND PIERRE LOTI 79 

parture. It is a prayer to Mary: "Brillez dans le 
del douce etoile d'or." 

This year, as every year, the same ceremonial of 
farewell. But August was at hand. News of dis- 
asters had already been brought back by a 
Government ship touching at Iceland. As we 
wandered about the town we saw only women and 
children. Their sabots clicked sadly along the 
narrow streets. The door of the little church 
stands open. We enter. The deepening twilight 
turns to darkness inside. Here and there white 
specks dot the blackness. The eye when grown 
accustomed discovers in these the white coifs of 
the widows of Paimpol. At this hour they gather 
in the church to pray for the souls of their lost 
ones. We slip quietly out, leaving the sad faces 
under the white coifs at their mournful vespers. 

One is reminded of Pierre Loti's story at every 
turn. On the public square we pass the window 
where poor little Gand on that May evening when 
the smell of the hawthorne blossoms was in the 
air, leaning out of the casement, listened to the sea 
and thought of her lover. One can peep inside 
the very room which furnished the setting for the 
exquisite letter-writing scene of the third chap- 
ter, in which Grandmother Yvonne and the poor 
girl collaborated. 

And mounted in a donkey cart we drive along 
the road to Ploubalasnec, over which Gand walked 
on that dreary November afternoon, bent on seeing 



8o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

the house and family of her lover, who with that 
unaccountable Breton obstinacy mingled with ex- 
treme shyness, wouldn't tell his love. 

In the hamlet of Porz-Even we find the little 
chapel where she paused to read the gruesome tab- 
lets and noted the pathetic votive offerings. It is 
all photographed on the pages of the book. 

But a pleasant surprise awaits us at Porz-Even. 
For we find Jean, the hero of the book, alive and 
well, instead of having been drowned at sea as the 
story has it. We see him stalking over the rocks 
with Sylvestre's baby boy on his shoulder. Yes, 
Sylvestre, who, after all, did not die on the ship 
returning from the war, but is actually off on the 
summer fishing voyage. Even dear old grand- 
mother Yvonne we find still in the flesh and sound 
in mind, her proud coif crowning her grey hair, 
and not the least awry as in that last pathetic chap- 
ter. We make acquaintance with all these good 
folk — the veritable models of the story. Jean 
shows us his house with its additional second story 
— an uncommon bit of splendor for Porz-Even! 
We see the two Breton armoire bedsteads in great 
state, and he shows us many photographs of Pierre 
Loti. They are great chums. Then he brings 
good Breton cider — the wine of the Province in 
which in the quaint faience bowls of the country 
we all drink to the safe return of Sylvestre. All 
this is cheerful, even gay. And the return to Paim- 
pol, driving our absurd little donkey over the route 



GUINGAMP, PAIMPOL AND PIERRE LOTI 8l 

from Ploubalasnec, is made with the joyful sense 
of having found something which we had thought 
to be lost. 

Each Breton town has its typical motif. That 
of Paimpol is in a minor key. The melancholy, 
long, flowing, black cloak with its capote, in which 
the widow of Paimpol envelopes herself, accords 
with the tristesse of the place. M. Anatole Le 
Braz pictures Paimpol in three words: "La Mer, 
l'amour, la mort." 

To listen to the Gregorian plain chant in the 
little church, to see the widows and orphans in the 
cemetery praying at the make-believe tombs of the 
drowned men — for each fisherman lost at sea has a 
place in the burial ground ascribed to his memory 
— all this is to see and know Paimpol and to catch 
its motif. Only on a Sunday is this possible, as on 
all other days the entire population is at work in 
the fields or in their houses. 



CHAPTER XIII 

TREGUIER, ST. YVES AND ERNEST RENAN 

From Paimpol we travel to Treguier, a matter 
of several hours' journey. 

The archaeologist finds in Brittany a historical 
museum — Keltic monuments, Roman remains and 
architecture of the Gothic and of the Renaissance 
period. In this Department through which we 
are now travelling — the C6tes-du-Nord — several 
remarkable instances claim a visit. The ruins of 
the temple of LanlefT, believed by some archaeolo- 
gists to be Roman in its construction, still remains 
a puzzle to the Savant. The exquisite old church 
St. Runan, near Pluzunet, is a gem. And in an- 
other parish near Pontrieux we find in the deserted 
chapel Kermaria-an-Isquit of the thirteenth cen- 
tury a curious mural painting representing a Danse 
Macabre, in which Popes, Kings and Nobles join 
in lugubrious procession. Much of this queer 
frieze has been covered with whitewash, but one 
sees enough to know that the work possesses con- 
siderable artistic merit, especially in respect to its 
colouring. 

82 



TREGUIER, ST. YVES AND ERNEST RENAN 83 

Treguier possesses a twofold interest to the 
traveller, as being the birthplace of Ernest Renan 
and of St. Ives, the greatest of the Breton Saints. 
Treguier was an old town before Armorica took 
the name of Brittany. In the fifth century Tud- 
wall, the Patron of the Cathedral, fleeing from 
Great Britain, built here a hermitage, which 
served as refuge for his companions in exile. The 
hermitage grew into a monastery, and a little town 
grouped itself about its walls, increasing gradually 
until it formed a radius of several miles. The 
Bishop's Palace, an admirable Cathedral of the 
thirteenth century, to-day accentuates the ecclesias- 
tical atmosphere of the place. One of the towers 
of the Cathedral is of the Roman style, there are 
some remarkable tombs of the middle age, and the 
stalls are artistically sculptured, portraying the 
legend of St. Tudwall slaying the dragon that for- 
merly infested the country about Treguier. Other 
sculptures represent a legend of St. Yves — a legend 
which we shall give later. The cloister is very in- 
teresting and beautiful. 

Brittany has had a nobility of its own, entirely 
distinct from that which owes its titles to the Kings 
of France. The Revolution made havoc with this 
little nest of monks and nobles. The bishops fled 
to England and the nobility were under a cloud. 
The bishopric was suppressed; Treguier was, as 
it were, decapitated. But later on the immense 
monastic buildings served for the establishment of 



84 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

an ecclesiastical college. Treguier resumed its 
dignity. But neither commerce nor industries have 
ever been a factor in its growth. 

In a small house of a narrow street bearing the 
misnomer Grande Rue, on January 27, 1823, Er- 
nest Renan w r as born and it was in the environment 
that we have described that the boy grew up. That 
the gloomy atmosphere of the place had something 
to do with the indestructible bias that pervaded 
his life, his "Souvenirs" give us to believe. He 
tells us how when visiting more commercial towns 
he was always homesick — rhow he longed for the 
belfry tower, the long and narrow nave, the clois- 
ter and the fifteenth century tombs. Only when 
restored to the company of knights and noble 
dames sleeping tranquilly with their hounds at 
their feet and torches in their hands and the stone 
saints ranged in their niches along the inner walls, 
did he recover himself. It is easy to imagine the 
little boy wandering about, dreaming in the twi- 
light, in the Cathedral. And when in later years 
he had become great among the scholars of his 
country and was the adored Professor of the Col- 
lege of France, he always turned lovingly to these 
childish days, to the Cathedral and to Brittany. 

We seek the house where he was born. The 
room opening on the street is now used as a bread 
shop. But the small back room contains some of 
the original furniture — the Breton bedstead and 
the great armoire on the top of which Ernest's 




ERNEST REN AX 
After the painting by Henri Scheffer, 1860 



TREGUIER, ST. YVES AND ERNEST RENAN 85 

father used to hide his "Don Quixote" and "Gil 
Bias." There is an immense stone chimney with 
open fireplace. - In this room Ernest Renan was 
born. We mount a narrow stairway leading to the 
garret which served as workroom during his stu- 
dent years at Treguier. From the two small win- 
dows we look out upon a pleasing landscape. Be- 
low is the tiny garden and the same rose bushes 
that his mother cherished. The woman in charge 
shows us photographs of Renan taken at various 
periods of his life, tells us how he visited the little 
house every year, how gracious and gentle he was, 
and, first glancing prudently about, she whispers: 
"tout le monde est si drole, Treguier ne comprend 
pas ce grand homme." Later on the old Sacristan 
shook his head portentously at our mention of the 
name of Renan, declaring firmly that he would 
never be allowed burial at Treguier. Two years 
later, standing in the crowd that lined the streets 
of Paris watching the procession bearing the body 
of Ernest Renan to its burial, I recalled the words 
of the Sacristan. But Treguier was not asked to 
honour her son. The French Government be- 
stowed upon his burial the highest public honours 
in its power, and the niche at the Pantheon will 
furnish the tomb which his own parish would have 
refused him. Scholars know him best through his 
works on "The Semitic Languages," "The Future 
of Science," "The Origin of Language," "Essays 
on Morals and Criticisms," and many others. 



86 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

More know him through his "Life of Jesus" and 
the group of philosophic dramas — "Caliban," 
"L'Eau de Jouvence," "Le Pretre de Nemi," and 
others. But as for the man he reveals himself 
chiefly through his "Souvenirs d'Enfance et de 
Jeunesse," "Feuilles Detachees," "Correspondence 
Intime," and other books written shortly before 
his death. 

Some of us doubtless recall the shabby little 
room, Number Four, at the College of France, 
where we listened to the lectures of the author of 
the "Life of Jesus." A certain playful touch pe- 
culiar to Renan when dealing with serious sub- 
jects was due to his everyday familiarity with the 
Oriental peoples and customs. When he men- 
tioned the old prophets one felt that they might 
have lived just around the corner — that one might 
at any moment encounter Jeremiah, Ezekiel and 
the rest at almost any turn in the Latin Quarter. 
This intimate manner with these ancient worthies 
who have inspired such awe in the usual mind was 
not due to irreverence but to the peculiar tempera- 
ment of the man. This peculiarity caused M. 
Challamel-Lacour to say of Renan: "He thinks 
like a man, he feels like a woman, he behaves like 
a child." 

In a prominent chapel in the Cathedral of Tre- 
guier we note the tomb of St. Ives, brilliant with 
fresh flowers and blazing with candles. No saint 
in the Breton calendar receives to-day the devotion 



TREGUIER, ST. YVES AND ERNEST RENAN 87 

accorded to this Breton Saint of Lawyers. It re- 
quired the imagination — or should I say? — the dis- 
crimination of the Breton to make a saint of a law- 
yer — the only instance in Christendom. The old 
Latin student song is still sung in Treguier. 

"Sanctus Yvo eratBrito, 
Advocatus et non latro, 
Res miranda populo." 

The ungracious suggestion in the third line indi- 
cates a lingering popular sentiment. 

Yves Helori was born in the parish of Treguier 
in the middle of the thirteenth century. He was 
of a noble family living at the Manor of Ker- 
martin, two miles from Treguier, was educated at 
Rennes, at Orleans and at Paris in scholastic theol- 
ogy and civil law. He became a judge at Rennes, 
then at Treguier, afterward cure of the parish of 
Lohannec. The widow and orphan had never a 
more eloquent pastor nor the poor so generous a 
benefactor. He fed the orphans of his parish, 
lodging many of them in his own house; others he 
apprenticed to master workmen whom he salaried 
from his own purse. He served the most miser- 
able beggars at his table, gave most of his clothing 
to the poor, visited the sick, consoling and assist- 
ing them. He administered the sacrament and 
prepared for burial the bodies of the poor who 
died in his house. After a life thus spent he died 



88 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

on the thirteenth of May, 1303, at the age of fifty. 
Soon miracles came to be wrought at his tomb. 
These becoming more and more frequent, the 
Bretons demanded the canonization of their com- 
patriot. The Pope named a legate who listened 
to* three hundred witnesses of the miracles per- 
formed. As the decision of the Synod was greatly 
delayed the clergy of Treguier boldly anticipated 
the decree, celebrating in crowded churches the 
Fete of St. Yves. When the canonization was fi- 
nally pronounced at Rome in 1348, St. Yves had 
been publicly honoured and invoked throughout 
Brittany. The pilgrimages made to his tomb were 
so numerous that those to Rome and Palestine 
dwindled in numbers. This devotion — to a certain 
extent — exists to-day. Widows and orphans from 
all over Brittany go to Treguier to worship at the 
?hrine containing the skull of St. Yves. Renan 
tells us in his "Souvenirs" that after the death of 
his father his mother took him to the tomb of St. 
Yves in the Treguier Cathedral and there named 
this Protector of the Orphans the guardian saint 
of the little Ernest. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 

PAUL SEBILLOT, in his collections of legends of 
Brittany, gives a popular legend of St. Yves. Ac- 
cording to this St. Yves dies and appears at the 
gate of Paradise^ St. Peter, in answer to his knock- 
ing, calls out: "Who's there? And what do you 
want?" St. Yves replies with impressive dignity: 
"When one knocks at a door it is naturally to en- 
ter." St. Peter grumbles: "Everybody can't come 
in here as if it were a wine shop; what did you 
do down there during your life?" "I was a law- 
yer," replies St. Yves. "A lawyer!" says St. Peter, 
"you have mistaken the door, go and knock at the 
other place." And he prudently turns the key 
twice instead of the usual once. St. Yves, discon- 
certed, was standing outside when,*as luck had it, 
there arrived a sweet little nun who had died that 
day at Treguier, to whom he tells his unlucky ad- 
venture. "It can't be possible," says the nun. "St. 
Peter couldn't shut the door of Paradise to such 
as you. Let us see." And she knocks softly at the 
door. She is, of course, promptly received and 

89 



9 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

St. Yves with her. And the legend goes on to re- 
late how he tried to get a seat among the clergy 
but the benches were already crowded, the more 
so as the profession was inclined to stoutness. He 
was forced to go down to the seats reserved for 
lawyers, which he finds quite empty. Meanwhile 
the little nun has difficulty in finding a place among 
her sisterhood, and upon a nod from St. Yves she 
comes over and sits with her much-honoured friend 
from Treguier. The legend shows that the two 
became so talkative as to disturb the quiet of the 
place somewhat, and the archangel charged with 
police duty in Paradise, comes over to restore 
quiet, even threatening to turn the lawyer out of 
the place. But St. Yves reminds him that first, he 
has possession, and second, he has definite property 
rights, and he quotes from the Code. The arch- 
angel goes off for a bailiff. Of course no such 
person is to be found in Paradise, and St. Yves is 
permitted to hold his place. This legend origi- 
nated in Morbihan, a Department of Brittany al- 
ways jealous of Treguier and the glory of her 
saint, and also possessing intense hatred of the 
bailiffs of the Government both of which senti- 
ments we note in the legend. 

We shall find that our Brittany is a Province of 
Saints and each saint has his miraculous fountain. 
When these are sought for healing of disease, coins 
and other objects are thrown into the fountain. 
That these were long ago thus frequented is proven 



THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 91 

by the fact that in digging deep beneath them, 
pieces of coin and amulets of ancient epochs have 
been found. But in place of the Roman divinity 
a Christian saint now presides over and gives the 
name to the fountain. Each saint cures some spe- 
cial disease. It is well understood that St. Pabu 
cures rheumatism, St. Cadoc deafness, and St. 
Kirion makes a specialty of boils — "father of 
boils," a popular litany has it. For dropsy one 
must seek the aid of St. Onene, St. Ivy must be in J 
voked for colic, St. Urlou for gout and St. Tre- 
meur is a specific for neuralgia. How any medical 
doctor makes a living in Brittany with such dis- 
tinguished competition is a cause for wonder. Nor 
are animals without protecting saints. St. Eloi, 
St. Herve and St. Gildas are committed in the 
Breton liturgy to horses. Cows and horned cattle 
share the spiritual advantages of various saints, 
St. Herbot being prominent in the long list. At 
their fetes troops of these excellent beasts march in 
procession. St. Comely is, however, most to be 
trusted as respects horned cattle, and the great fete 
of this saint is held at Carnac on the fifteenth of 
September. At fetes of horses bunches of hair 
pulled from the manes and tails of the animals are 
placed on the altar rail as offerings, while at the 
shrines of St. Herbot, patron saint of the cow, 
pats of butter are offered. This is the saint in- 
voked by the Breton dairymaid if the butter is 
slow in forming in the churn. 



92 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

St. Yves has no fountain of miraculous water 
whereby to afford assistance in cases of distress. 
He descends to no such earthly shrine. The Law- 
yer Saint pleads the cause of the widow and or- 
phan and of others who suffer from injustice within, 
the gates of that Paradise which at the start threat- 
ened to exclude him from its courts. 

Only in a single emergency is St. Yves invoked 
through the medium of his statue. There is a 
strange and lugubrious custom with the Breton, 
gradually falling into disuse, called the "adjura- 
tion of St. Yves." In the case of serious quarrel ; 
if a Breton suffers from dishonesty of another; if a 
boundary line has been tampered with and no proof 
was available, he had only to invoke St. Yves, 
whose thirst for justice after the six hundred years 
since his death, is in no wise abated. The wronged 
person made a pilgrimage to some statue of the 
saint and, first, placing a few coins in the auriole 
of the saint, demanded justice of him, sometimes 
in rather stern language, sometimes in serious ca- 
ress, going to the length of shaking the wooden 
image by a shoulder. Many times these words 
were uttered: "If the right is on his side condemn 
us; if on our side condemn him; cause him to die 
within a year." Then the circuit of the chapel is 
made three times and he kneels before the entrance 
and makes a last supplication and it is finished. 
The guilty person dies within the year and justice 
is accomplished ! 




PHOTO BY FRANCES N. GOSTLING 

THE CHAPEL OF SAIXT GILDAS NEAR PORT BLANC 

The patron saint of horses 



THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 93 

Thus the Lawyer Saint holds high authority 
with the Breton, with whom the wall which sepa- 
rates the visible from the invisible is very slight. 
It has been said in fact that the Breton is gener- 
ally in a state of mind in which an explanation of 
natural events is an interpretation of the miracu- 
lous. 

Of course many legends have gathered about 
the name of the Lawyer Saint. M. Anatole Le 
Braz, in his book "Au Pays des Pardons," has 
given the preceeding and the two following leg- 
ends, parts of which I give in his own words. For 
instance: his boundless hospitality at the manor 
house, Kermartin, is illustrated in the following: 
"A troup of jugglers arrived in the middle of the 
night. St. Yves, after a busy day devoted to pro- 
fessional duties, was in the midst of his best sleep. 
But, awakened by the knocking, he rose, welcomed 
and fed the guests, serving them with his own 
hands. After a generous feast of pork, beef and 
bread had been enjoyed the chief of the Nomad 
tribe felt called upon to express his gratitude and 
to explain the several callings of the members of 
his family; speaking of himself as not only a jug- 
gler but a rhymer of war songs and the Lives of 
the Saints; then introducing his wife, player on 
the viol and fortune-teller, and with a knowledge 
of herbs and a talent for curing diseases by prayer; 
followed by mention of his two sons, one gifted in 
playing the bagpipes, the other the flute. The jug- 



94 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

gler was proceeding to describe the accomplish- 
ments of a group of young daughters when St. 
Yves begged him to spare himself the pains of 
making further introductions, assuring them that 
his house was theirs for so long a time as it should 
please them to remain. Eleven years after, at the 
time of the death of St. Yves, they were still his 
guests." 

This legend is sculptured on the pulpit of the 
Cathedral of Treguier. 

The third legend illustrates the hospitality of 
the Lawyer Saint who never sent a beggar from 
his door unsatisfied. The legend has it that on one 
especially stormy night, the cook of the manor 
house, believing that no one could possibly turn up 
to ask for food, prepared a limited supply of soup. 
Contrary to her expectations, crowds of hungry 
people poured into the old kitchen. The cook 
was frightened. But St. Yves calmed her fears, 
and then occurred what in the records of the Life 
of St. Yves is named: "The Miracle of the Soup," 
for as fast as the cook ladled out the contents of 
the kettle, the quantity was made good by miracu- 
lous means. Also the loaves of bread were re- 
plenished in the same mysterious manner. The 
ceremony of the "Giving of the Soup," which 
forms a part of the fete of St. Yves, celebrates this 
legend. 

We must not leave Treguier without mention of 
the great fete devoted to St. Yves. Not only is he 



THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 95 

the greatest saint in the Breton calendar, but his 
fame extended to Rome, where in the fourteenth 
century a church was built, dedicated to him, and 
altars in his honour were consecrated in various 
cathedrals in France. Rubens painted a picture 
of the illustrious Breton and a fresco in Italy shows 
our Lawyer Saint in the act of giving gratuitous 
advice to a clientele in rags. His fete occurs on 
the nineteenth day of May, but one should make 
a point of arriving at Treguier on the eighteenth 
in order to make the pilgrimage to Kermartin to 
witness the ceremony of the "Giving of the Soup." 

We arrive at the manor house, having become 
attached to a procession of halt, blind and crippled 
beggars, all making their way to the famous 
kitchen of the hospitable advocate who was once 
master there. 

The scene is curious and impressive. In the 
large fireplace, over blazing fagots, several im- 
mense kettles are suspended. All about the large 
kitchen the mendicants are sitting, some on the 
long benches which line the walls, some on low 
seats, placed here and there. At a large table a 
woman gives to each newly-arrived a porringer 
and spoon. Into this each breaks bread, of which 
we note great piles at one end of the table, then 
bringing the porringer to the fireplace, the woman 
in charge of the kettles ladles the soup into the 
porringer of each applicant, who returns to his seat. 
Each one makes the sign of the cross before com- 



96 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

mencing his repast, and only the soft clicking of 
the wooden spoons against the faience porringers 
is audible. This coming in of the hungry and the 
departure of the satisfied are accomplished silently 
and the soup-giving continues until midnight, when 
the little church close by fills with the motley 
crowd, who watch and pray until daybreak, when 
the mass is said, and for them the "Pardon of St. 
Yves" is ended, save that during the great proces- 
sion of the following day — the real fete day — these 
beggars lined the route by which the procession 
passed, their plaintive songs filling the air and re- 
sembling in the distance the droning of bees. Dur- 
ing the procession they receive alms from the 
moving mass. Nowhere as at the fete of St. Yves 
are the beggars so numerous. For was not St. 
Yves the protector of the poor? M. Anatole Le 
Braz has properly named the fete of St. Yves: 
"The Pardon of the Poor." 

I recall a perfect nineteenth of May when we 
made an important pilgrimage to the shrine of St. 
Yves. It was the six hundredth anniversary of the 
death of the Lawyer Saint. At eight o'clock in the 
morning all the bells of Treguier were pealing, 
every house was decorated, as were the streets, 
with banners, flowers and streamers — the colour of 
St. Yves (yellow) prevailing. From every direc- 
tion neighbouring parishioners arriving. Each 
procession advanced, singing the canticle of St. 
Yves set to the music of an ancient Breton Battle 



THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 97 

Hymn. The clergy of Treguier went to meet each 
procession and the curious salutation of the ban- 
ners took place, after which all passed to the Ca- 
thedral, where, after short devotions at the tomb 
of the saint, brilliant with lighted candles and 
gorgeous with flowers, each parish was in turn as- 
signed its place in the great procession being 
massed on the public square. Over twenty parishes 
poured into Treguier that day and many thou- 
sands of pilgrims besides from all over Brittany. 

The great procession always makes the pilgrim- 
age to Kermartin, two miles from Treguier, where 
are the tomb and the manor house of the Saint. 
The latter is still standing and some of the furni- 
ture remains. The tomb is in the little church- 
yard of Minihy close by. In the church one sees 
inscribed on the walls the last will and testament 
of Yves Helotry; in the sacristry are treasured the 
remains of his breviary. Although the body of 
St. Yves reposes at Minihy, his skull is enshrined 
in a gold casket in the tomb in the Cathedral at 
Treguier. This is always borne with great pomp 
in the procession on the day of the fete. But the 
actual tomb at Minihy is a small arcade under 
which the faithful pass, kneeling, in fact creep- 
ing, so low is the stone placed. Unless one per- 
forms this little ceremony one may not lay claim 
to being truly "bretonnate." 

By nine o'clock the great procession begins to 
move from Treguier, the bells incessantly ringing. 



98 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

military bands playing, choristers and people sing- 
ing, and always and only the one Canticle — the 
Canticle of St. Yves — of which the refrain is, in 
the Breton language: 

N'hen es ket en Breiz, n'hen es ket unan, 
N'hen es ket eur Zant evel Sant Erwan. 

Which put into French : 

77 n'y a pas en Bretagne, il n'y a pas un 
II n'y a pas un Saint comme St. Yves. 

The priest of each parish in turn sings a stanza, 
then choristers and choirs, bands and people take 
up the refrain. 

The procession, two miles long, with its hun- 
dreds of gay banners, the rich vestments of the 
clergy, the scarlet and white of the choristers, the 
gay fete costumes of the peasants, all flashing in 
the sunshine under the bluest of skies, as it goes 
winding through the fields, gives, in its ensemble, 
the impression of a gorgeous silken scarf tossed 
across the green meadows in endless length of pris- 
matic colour. And always and always that re- 
frain, sung in march rhythm, each pilgrim keep- 
ing time in his step and with his staff repeats the 
familiar refrain: 

"N'hen es ket en Breiz. N'hen es ket unan" 



THE LEGEND AND PARDON OF ST. YVES 99 

Arrived at Minihy mass is said in the open air 
and the procession passing under the arcade of 
the tomb returns to Treguier, disperses for the 
midday repast, and the afternoon is passed among 
the booths erected in the public square and in 
sports of various kinds. 

Such is the Pardon of St. Yves, a Saint in all 
ways worthy of the great Profession of which he is 
Patron. 



CHAPTER XV 

MORLAIX, BARDS AND POETS 

Our next stopping-place is Morlaix, where we 
find some interesting mediaeval houses. That of 
Anne of Brittany, rich in carved staircases and 
superbly decorated throughout, is much visited by 
travellers. Albert the Monk of Morliax here re- 
corded the "Lives of the Saints of Brittany." 

The public square bearing the name of fimile 
Souvestre, attracts one, and we note its statue — a 
souvenir of one of the best-known writers of Breton 
birth. Morlaix is to-day proud of the distinction 
of being the birthplace of Emile Souvestre, al- 
though the author of "Le Philosophe Sous Les 
Toits" was not appreciated by its citizens in his 
day. But the book is Parisian, and to a lover of 
Brittany his half dozen books : "Les Derniers Bret- 
ons," "Le Foyer Breton," "Souvenirs d'un Bas- 
Breton," etc., are more important. 

From Morlaix we take train for St. Pol-de-Leon 
in Finistere. We are nearing the land of the Par- 
don, of the pilgrimage, nursery of folk songs, do- 

ioo 



MORLAIX, BARDS AND POETS 101 

main of the Legend. We hail the constant click of 
the sabot, the droning song of the beggar and the 
sound of the Keltic language, for we must bear in 
mind that the Breton is not French, he is pure Kelt 
and speaks a Keltic language. Hence the ancient 
bards long held a kind of authority over the peo- 
ple, and the superstitions and legends of Lower 
Brittany to-day are due to the survival of this 
racial talent for the mysterious and supernatural. 
Several Breton men of letters have searched out 
these old songs, some of them only fragments, and 
have translated them from the Keltic tongue into 
French. 

Our introduction to Finistere through the town 
of St. Pol-de-Leon gives us a good impression of 
Lower Brittany. The inhabitants of this town 
have been from the earliest time less barbaric than 
in other parts of Finistere. They are also the 
most religious of the Province. Nothing equals 
the respect of the Leonaise for the dead. He 
kneels at the wooden cross that designates a tomb 
without even reading the name of the person buried 
there. When there is no more room in the ceme- 
tery the Leonaise, faithful to the training of his 
ancestors, collects the sacred bones and places 
them in beautiful ossuaries, some of them master- 
pieces of naive and patient art. In the country of 
Leon we find the richest Calvaries in Brittany, and 
many sculptured pulpits, altars, baptismal fonts 
and ornaments. 



102 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

The Leonais is brave, collected, imposing. His 
garments are as severe as his face. He holds to the 
ample black vestment, something like the clerical 
mantle, and the low, wide-brimmed hat. The 
Leonais may be named the Quaker of Brittany. 
It is a splendid race of men with regular features 
and fine eyes full of expression. It is not strange 
that there should be much in the temperament of 
the Leonais which is sombre. Even in the woo- 
ing of lovers there is generally great seriousness. 
The lugubrious insensibilities of a maid of St. 
Pol-de-Leon is set forth in a very queer and ancient 
song of the tenth century, preserved by £mile 
Souvestre, in which, to each entreaty of the youth 
for a return of affection, she bids him instead of 
seeking happiness, to repair to the ossuary and 
view the skeletons which she describes in a realistic 
manner, worthy of Zola or Huysmans. The 
youth's further entreaties inspire the maid to pre- 
dict a most unpleasant dance which her lover will 
be likely to perform in the next life — the demon, 
with red-hot forks playing maliciously with his 
bare feet. But the lover persists (one wonders 
why), whereupon the dispiriting maiden begins 
to describe a life in a convent to which she intends 
to retire, and the poem ends thus: "Oh, my mis- 
tress, how much time I have passed with you and 
to no profit if what you say be true." To which 
she replies: "Young man, you are beautiful and 
fat" (in the eyes of the Breton peasants corpulency 




A STREET IN MORLAIX 

The home of the Franciscan Monk, Albert of Morlaix 

who first collected the Legends of Brittany 



MORLAIX, BARDS AND POETS 103 

is a point of beauty, as indicating leisure and 
wealth). "You are beautiful and fat, and I will 
reward you for the time you have lost by praying 
for you morning and evening that you may enter 

Paradise " "Adieu, then, O Maiden, alas! I 

now know it is wrong to laugh when one is young, 
for life is sad. It is wrong to find the milk of the 
nurse sweet, for life is bitter." 

M. Anatole Le Braz has written a thrilling 
novel: "Le Gardien du Feu," in which a Leon- 
ais marries a girl from Treguier. This novel 
portrays a tragic problem. 

M. Anatole Le Braz portrays this part of Brit- 
tany admirably in his book "La Terre du Passe" 
and in "The Land of Pardons" and several ro- 
mances translated by Frances Gostling. 

Many famous sons of France have belonged to 
Brittany, and have written of that fascinating 
country. Among them Brizeux, Charles Le Gof- 
fic, Villemarque, Emile Souvestre, Luzel, Tiezce- 
lin (endless volumes of poetry — for the Bretons 
are all poets) . There is a splendid history of Brit- 
tany by de la Borderie, countless books and bro- 
chures on matters archaeological. I have had the 
pleasure of reading several hundred books that 
have to do with my subject in French alone, but I 
mention here only such as are most useful to the 
general traveller in Brittany. If but four books 
could be chosen from the many, let them be : A. Le 
Braz's "Land of Pardons," Pierre Loti's "Pecheur 



104 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

d'Islande," Brizeux's poem "Marie," Ernest Ren- 
art's "Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse." 

To-day yet another school of singers has come to 
take possession, quite modern. Chief of the pres- 
ent bards (for poets are still called bards in Lower 
Brittany) are Theodore Botrel and Francois Jaf- 
frenou. The former, born in Upper Brittany, 
composes his songs and sings them in French. 
Jaffrenou — a native of the Mountains of Arez in 
Lower Brittany — writes only in the Breton and 
sings his songs in the same language, and with the 
vigor which suggests the oaks and granite of his 
country, while Botrel * captivates his audiences 
by a contrasting, graceful touch that is truly 
French. It would be difficult to say which of 
these two Breton bards is more enjoyable. Both 
please their public. 

But there remained until a few years ago in 
Brittany one of the old popular singers — a link 
between past and present bardism, and it is a pleas- 
ure to note that the joyous young bards did not 
scorn this relic of the past, on the contrary — old 
Marc'harit Phulup was held in profound respect 
by them and indeed by all Brittany. 

Of her I shall have more to say later on. 



* During the war Botrel went from hospital to hospital singing 
to the wounded French soldiers. 



CHAPTER XVI 

marc'harit phulup and job la poulaine 

In THE September of 1900, in the old town of 
Guingamp during the sessions of the Congress of 
the Union Regionaliste Breton, composed of 
Breton men of letters, every evening was devoted 
to the "cabaret breton," cider flowed freely; the 
poets recited their verses; the bards sang their 
songs; the audience joined in the refrains. The 
old and popular rondo, "Anne of Brittany and Her 
Wooden Shoes," once set going, was sure to bring 
the audience to a high pitch of enthusiasm. But 
not to the highest. For one evening, in the midst 
of the programme, a woman about sixty years of 
age, in sabots well lined with straw, no stockings, 
a dark blue cotton gown and apron of the same ma- 
terial, a small shoulder shawl and the white coif 
of the peasant of Pluzunet, came upon the plat- 
form. The entire audience rose and greeted her 
— two, three — round after round of cheering. The 
woman stood smiling at her audience. Then she 
sang. It was Marc'harit Phulup, known through- 

105 



106 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

out Brittany as "old Marc'harit." I had met her 
name in the preface of Luzel's volumes of "Popu- 
lar Tales" where this greatest of the Breton folk- 
lorists writes: "Marc'harit Phulup has given me 
the whole treasure of popular literature known be- 
tween the bourg of Pluzunet, the Menezbre, Guin- 
gamp, Pourtrieux, Treguier and Lannion. En- 
dowed with a mediocre intelligence, she possesses 
an excellent memory, loves passionately the old 
songs and the fairy tales which she is not far from 
believing to be true, and she recites these simply 
and with great respect for the traditions. Spinner 
by profession, pilgrim by procuration, she is al- 
most constantly on the routes leading to some sa- 
cred fountain or chapel of the C6tes-du-Nord, 
Finistere or Morbihan to implore the Saint whose 
specialty it is to cure the malady of the person 
sending her, or of his horse, or cow, or pig, and 
she brings back a bottle filled with water from the 
miraculous fountain bearing the name of the saint 
invoked. Wherever she passes she inquires about 
the existing traditions of the locality, listens, com- 
mits to memory and two or three times a year I 
give her a rendezvous at Plouaret and share the 
additions with which she has enriched her treas- 
ury. It is truly astonishing, all that she has recited 
to me, and I owe her great obligations." 

I said: "She stood smiling down at her audi- 
ence." Then she sang — not the songs of to-day, but 
those taught her by her mother, who in turn had 




MARC'HARIT PHl'l.lT 
1835-1909 



MARC'HARIT PHULUP AND LA POULAINE 107 

learned them from her mother — a family of spin- 
ners. In Brittany it has often been to the rhythm 
of the wheel that the popular songs have been 
sung. 

Marc'harit Phulup was a beggar — but not from 
choice, for the paralysis of an arm made her pro- 
fession of spinner impossible. However, in Brit- 
tany, to be a beggar is considered no disgrace, and 
Marc'harit's faith in the Saints being boundless, 
her intercession at their shrines was held to be very 
efficacious, and she was in great demand as a pil- 
grim. For making a pilgrimage at a distance of 
thirty miles she was paid eight sous! 

I am proud to have possessed the affectionate 
friendship of this last of the old popular singers. 
We made many journeys together, she being my 
guest. Her sole impedimenta in travelling con- 
sisted of a list of her songs, 168 altogether, — of 
which she was justly proud, a list made for her by 
the great Luzel. Just how she managed her daily 
toilette was always a mystery to me. At one mo- 
ment, impelled by the apparent necessities of the 
case, I ventured to present my fellow traveller with 
a cake of soap, rose-tinted and highly perfumed. 
I found a week later that shetreasured the gift as 
a precious souvenir of "Bretonez-Tramor" (the 
name I bear among my Bretons, meaning: "a 
Breton lady from over the sea"). Some of the 
Breton men of letters, realizing the value of 
Marc'harit's songs, have had the most important 



108 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

phonographed, and placed among the archives of 
the University of Rennes. 

How vividly I recall the many hours which 
Marc'harit and I passed together, as we sat by the 
roadside, watching processions given for St. Yves 
and other saints. It was on one of these occasions 
that she taught me that little song, "Ann hini goz," 
the most ancient of the Breton folk songs. It has 
been named the "ranz des vaches" of the Breton, 
for he weeps when absent from his country if he 
hears it sung. Every Breton has been rocked to 
sleep to its rhythm. The five little notes which 
compose the melody of "Ann hini goz" stand for 
mother — home — Brittany. 

Great singers may be younger, fairer, richer, 
but give me my poor, dear old Marc'harit, and as 
I hum this little tune there comes to me the souve- 
nir of an old face, under a peasant's coif — of a 
form worn by age and poverty, in the humble garb 
of a beggar. Not the glint of a white satin slipper 
and silken hose in the midst of dainty frou-frou, 
but a pair of wooden shoes thrust boldly out on the 
green grass, and no stockings. Not a pair of white 
gloves, but two poor old hands knotted by rheuma- 
tism, and rough from working in the fields, and I 
recall her constrained, resonant voice, and the "Ann 
hini goz." 

Several years ago she passed on at the age of 
seventy- three. Doubtless she promptly sought and 
found her favorite Saint in some Amen corner of 



MARCHARIT PHULUP AND LA POULAINE 109 

that Paradise which was at first so inhospitable to 
St. Yves. 

In the month of September, 191 1, nearly three 
years after the death of my friend, which occurred 
in 1909, there gathered in the little hamlet of 
Pluzunet a distinguished company of Bretons — 
poets — singers, — professors— folk-lorists — romanc- 
ers — philologists — archaeologists. Also a crowd of 
peasants from the country about Pluzunet, come to 
witness the inauguration of a tomb in the little 
cemetery of the village. Marc'harit had been 
buried in the pauper's corner. But certain friends 
had felt that this last of the singers of folk-songs — 
the link between the ancient Brittany and that of 
to-day — deserved a more honourable burial. A 
lot was bought in perpetuity, and on this a beauti- 
ful tomb of the granite of Kersanton had been 
placed. On the tomb were engraven — Marc'harit 
Phulup, with date of birth and death. And for an 
epitaph these words from an almost forgotten 
Breton poet: "Lud-Jan": "J e n'ai fait qu'une chose 
ici-bas — J'ai chante." Only, as Marc'harit did not 
know French, nor did her fellow townsfolk, these 
words were put into Breton, and so engraven on 
the stone. Garlands of heather — the pan-Keltic 
flower — encircled the base of the tomb. High 
mass was said in the parish church at nine o'clock 
— then the company of Breton men of letters gath- 
ered at one side of the tomb — Le Goflic, Le Braz, 
Jaffrenou, Botrel, Durocher, Ernault and many 



no THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

others — each gifted in his especial way. Throngs 
of peasants filled the cemetery on the opposite side. 
Each of the men of letters, in turn, stepped forward 
with his offering — in verse or prose — no such gath- 
ering of the scholars of Brittany had ever occurred 
as that which had assembled to do honor to a 
beggar — a mere singer of songs. For an hour the 
literary programme went on, and then all sat down 
at table in the modest inn of Pluzunet — twenty- 
two altogether, and there for four hours the sym- 
posium continued — songs — remembrances of old 
Marc'harit — speeches — recitations. That was a 
day for Pluzunet — the parish folk who had seen 
old Marc'harit going and coming, in their midst 
all these years, were amazed at all these festivities. 
For the rest of us — it was a recognition of the value 
of a unique personage. 

There are many ambulant singers of less im- 
portance in Brittany — of more modern traditions. 
These are sure to be present at fetes, weddings and 
pilgrimages. They are welcome guests at every 
fireside. 

Another precious experience among many inti- 
mate happenings — has been my friendship for an- 
other popular old singer in Brittany, less important 
than Marc'harit. This is Job la Poulaine, of Plou- 
manack (Cotes du Nord). We are fast friends. 
She lives in a sort of grotto, twelve feet square, 
formed by the relative position of several immense 
boulders — tossed one upon another. The people 



MARC'HARIT PHULUP AND LA POULAINE in 

tell you that Job's ancestors were fairies (I like to 
believe what the Breton peasants tell me — their 
facts are sure to be picturesque and unique). 
They hold her in great respect. She is the only 
person I have met during my long life who owns 
to being absolutely happy — whose every wish is 
gratified. The drunkard-husband whom she sup- 
ports by working in the fields might present to 
some minds an obstacle to perfect bliss. That 
such is not the case suggests some potent charm at 
Job's command, that doubtless only fairy folk un- 
derstand. She is sixty years old. Her clear pink 
and white complexion, and large, blue, happy eyes 
are beautiful to see. Job la Poulaine finds her 
recreation in song. During my visits at her grotto, 
I have listened to her entire repertory, which in- 
cludes both sacred and secular music — the former 
being her preference. I have been treated — espe- 
cially if the day be a Sunday — to an entire mass — 
she taking the role of priest, choir and people in 
turn — in Gregorian plain-chant and in resonant 
Latin. Her Latin flows unctuously, although she 
does not know the language. Many a delightful 
hour have I passed in Job's grotto — the head of the 
family being invariably at the wine shop a mile 
away. Job's goat and pair of hens — together with 
myself, forming the audience at these musical 
seances. 



CHAPTER XVII 

A BRETON WEDDING 

In BRITTANY when we meet a young man and 
maid walking along the country road with their 
little fingers interlocked, we know that a wedding 
will soon follow. The locked fingers furnish the 
announcement of the betrothal of the pair. How 
many such couples have I encountered — all smiles 
and blushes — proclaiming the announcement "au 
petit doight" as it is called. 

In Lower Brittany the wedding involves much 
of curious custom and naive sentiment. The wed- 
ding occurs soon after the betrothal. But for many 
years the wedding chest has, by slow instalments, 
been made ready by the mother of the bride. 
Often the coffer has been carved, on winter even- 
ings, through many years by some relative of the 
family. These coffers and the lit clos (the armoire 
bedstead) and sometimes a massive armoire con- 
stitute the lares et penates of thrifty Breton fami- 
lies. As the time fixed for the wedding ap- 
proaches, there is a commotion in the family, the 

TI2 



A BRETON WEDDING 113 

excitement of which spreads through the parish. 
The wedding gown is made — the linen, stored for 
many years, is whitened in the fields, the carved 
bedstead, armoire and coffers are waxed and pol- 
ished, all the brass and copper utensils are made 
to shine like gold. Then on a Saturday evening 
comes the betrothal supper to the intimate friends. 
The next day at high mass the bans are published, 
after which the invitations to the wedding are 
given. On the morning of the wedding crowds of 
friends gather to join the procession to the church, 
which the bridegroom leads with the chosen best 
man; after the religious ceremony the procession 
passes to the house of the bride, the binions play- 
ing vociferously. The house (more often than 
otherwise consisting of one room) has been hung 
with white linen sheets with wreaths and bouquets 
attached to their surface. Tables are spread inside 
and outside the house. The feast consists of every- 
thing within the means of the family to provide. 
Be sure that cider, the national beverage, flows 
freely. Eating, drinking, songs sung by the am- 
bulant singers, and dancing fill the afternoon and 
night hours. (During the repast the binious go 
on playing, and a dance now and then, by way of 
entree between courses, is in order.) Numerous 
beggars are sure to be present, and the poorest of 
these dances with the bride, as this is sure to bring 
good luck to the newly-married. The ceremony 
of the soupe-au-lah. difficult to describe here, is 



ii4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

still a custom in the mountains. In certain parts 
of Finistere the festivities last three days. The 
final event is the ceremony of carrying the bride's 
armoire to the house of her new husband. We may 
be sure this armoire is shining like a mirror and 
its brasses like gold, and bouquets adorn the four 
corners. Placed upon a wagon drawn by horses 
decorated with ribbons and flowers, it is finally 
placed in the corner prepared, in the midst of 
bravos. 

At Plougastel all the marriages take place on 
two days of the year, one of these being the twelfth 
day — always at nine in the morning. Before day- 
break the town is filled with carts and carriages 
bringing kinsfolk and friends, and the streets 
swarm with men and women in their fete costumes 
— and the costumes of Plougastel are of more vivid 
colors than elsewhere in Brittany. All the couples 
are ranged at the altar rail, the bridegroomsbeing 
led up by their best men, and the brides by their 
fathers. A tall, lighted candle is placed before 
each couple. After the joining of these many pairs 
of hands and the benediction, the anthem is sung 
and mass follows. Bride and groom do not leave 
the church together, but are sure to find each other 
shortly after — at least I have never known any of 
them to get lost! 

I am going to speak in some detail of the most 
recent and also the most important wedding that 
I have attended in Brittany. 



A BRETON WEDDING 115 

One day when I was attending one of the Con- 
gresses of the Breton bards — in Carnac in Lower 
Brittany, a priest of a little parish in the northern 
part of Morbihan came to invite me to his sister's 
wedding. He also gave me the privilege of bring- 
ing with me any friend whom I would like to in- 
vite, adding naively that there would be abundant 
entertainment, as there were to be slain three 
beeves and seven calves in provision for the feast. 
Five hundred invitations had been given, and it 
was to be a three-days' affair. Rendezvous was 
made at Vannes — the capital of Morbihan — 
twelve miles from the place of the wedding — on 
the afternoon preceding the event. 

It was already nine o'clock the next morning 
when we arrived at the place designated. The 
priest installed us at a Convent opposite the house 
of the bride, and shortly after brought his sister to 
greet us. She was already dressed for the cere- 
mony, save for the orange flowers — a Parisian in- 
novation seldom seen in Brtitany. She wore the 
usual peasant gown of black — but heavily banded 
in velvet and embroidery — an apron of gorgeous 
stuff, crimson satin with large mantle of heavy vel- 
vet thrown over it — and the usual coif of her par- 
ish. She was sweet and tranquil and offered both 
cheeks to be kissed all around — then returned home 
for the final touch — a small wreath of orange blos- 
soms surmounting the top of the coif, and lastly 
white gloves — another Parisian innovation. At 



u6 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

ten o'clock the bells began pealing and the proces- 
sion marched to the church — the bride and groom 
leading. The wedding ceremony was, as always, 
in Breton. The wedding feast and dancing were 
to take place in a field near by. Thither the pro- 
cession moved from the church, passing along a 
beautiful shady lane. At the wide-open gate of 
the field a halt was made, and immediately the 
chief cook and master of ceremonies advanced with 
a dish on which was a huge piece of beef — smoking 
hot from the cauldron. This was offered to the 
bridegroom who, taking from his pocket his knife 
(as all Breton peasants do), cut a morsel and of- 
fered it to the bride, who ate it, he cutting an- 
other for himself. Next came another man with 
a large loaf of bread. The bridegroom cut a bit 
from the loaf and served the bride and himself in 
the same manner. Lastly came dancing up a pair 
of handsome young Bretons, gaily decorated with 
flowers and ribbons, bearing between them a large 
two-handled vase or jug. We note the fine old 
Roman shape of the jug and recall that Caesar con- 
quered Gaul and made headquarters in Morbihan 
where many of the Roman forms of pottery linger. 
The two wine-bearers — (only the wine is plain 
Breton cider) as they advance in dancing, rhyth- 
mic step, sing an ancient Breton drinking song. 
The especial duty of the wine-bearer is supposed 
to be to "cheer the bride." They approach the 
young couple, always in this dancing fashion, and 



A BRETON WEDDING 



117 



each offers a glass of cider to the pair. Afterward 
cider was offered to us, as we were placed next to 
the bride. Then the procession moved through the 
gate and into the field. Seven cauldrons — each in 
charge of a cook — the chef in charge of the whole 
— were steaming at one end of the field, and I re- 
called the beeves to be slain in the invitation. Two 
long tables — placed twelve feet apart, extended to 
the farther end, and at the upper end connecting 
the two — a table covered with damask and deco- 
rated with bouquets, was arranged for the bridal 
company. Benches ranged along both sides of the 
tables furnished seats for the company. The first 
course consisted of the soup of the pot-au-feu, the 
second, beef and vegetables. For the third we 
were served personally by the bride's mother, who 
displayed special pride in the ragout, which she 
informed us had been prepared in her own kitchen 
under her personal supervision. Mountains of 
bread placed at intervals on the tables completed 
the menu. But the wine-bearers were ever active, 
up and down — back and forth in the space between 
the two long tables they danced and sang and 
served — I begged from one of them a translation 
of one of the drinking songs — as it was sung in the 
Breton language. It was Horatian in sentiment, 
with a touch of Breton lugubriousness: "Let us 
drink and be merry to-day, for to-morrow we shall 

die and our bodies be food for worms " Just 

how this could "cheer the bride" he did not at- 



u8 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

tempt to explain. No dessert was offered at table, 
but women with baskets of cake and other sweets, 
which could be bought if desired, made their ap- 
pearance in the field after the repast. 

At the close of the feast the bride rose, turned 
her back to the table, the others following her 
movements — and then followed a most impressive 
incident — an aged woman, all her life a servant 
of the family, knelt on the ground at the feet of 
the bride and uttered a long prayer. It was a 
prayer for the dead — those of the family — whose 
presence at this marriage fete she invoked. For 
the Breton is never far removed from his lost ones, 
and each family fete and event is shared by them. 

As the prayer ended the sound of the binions 
was heard, and in the centre of the field two play- 
ers of bagpipes were stationed. The bride and 
groom with bridesmaid and best man begin the 
dance — the gavotte being the favourite dance at 
weddings. Gradually the circle grows larger and 
presently the entire field is in movement — mean- 
while the wine-bearers are always serving — the 
"cheering of the bride" seems to succeed in spite 
of the mortuary suggestions of the song. For 
when she leaves the dancing at five o'clock to join 
us at her mother's house for a farewell glass of 
wine, she seems radiant, and, although she has been 
dancing for five hours, she is unflushed by the ef- 
fort. At the mother's house we all drink to the 
health of the newly married, and they to ours — 



A BRETON WEDDING 119 

the bride disappears for five minutes and returns 
resplendent in another apron — this time of pale 
blue brocade; after all, why possess the trousseau 
of two aprons if the invited guests be unaware of 
the fact! And so we depart — another banquet, 
precisely like the first, is to be served and the danc- 
ing will go on until midnight; on the second day 
the programme will be like that of the first, and 
on the third day, given up to the poor, the final 
ceremony of carrying the bride's wardrobe to her 
husband's house will close the wedding fete. 

The invocation of the dead at the wedding feast 
illustrates one of the strongest traits of Breton 
character — the cult of the dead — voila la Bre- 
tagne! 

On All Souls Eve, in Breton homes, a bright fire 
is kept blazing on the hearth when the family re- 
tires for the night — a table covered with a white 
cloth ("article de luxe chez les Bretons") is set 
forth with cider and crips (a kind of wheat cake), 
all ready in case some family ghost chance to visit 
the familiar place, hungry! For on that night it 
is prudent to avoid going outside, as the dead are 
walking hither and thither on the highways, and 
like not to be interfered with, so the Breton pru- 
dently retires early — taking no chances of harm 
from any stray malignant ghost — but hospitably 
providing for the entertainment of his own family 
wraiths. If, however, a Breton is forced to go 
abroad on that night any implement of labor car- 



[20 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

ried on his person serves as a protection — even a 
thimble or a needle suffices. 

The Veillee with the Bretons is a becoming and 
dignified function — in other Keltic countries, 
notably in Ireland, the best-intentioned Wake has 
been known to come to an unworthy end. But with 
the Bretons the Veillee has retained its discreet and 
tender element I have shared several such in 
Brittany. Near relatives and friends gather at 
nightfall and sit through the night — their dead is 
in their midst — they talk of the departed — recall 
this or that deed or quality — recite souvenirs — now 
and then some one kneels and prays in silence. 
Sometimes certain songs are sung — all is tender, 
affectionate and sympathetic. At midnight coffee 
(never anything stronger) is served with simple 
refreshments, and the watch continues until dawn 
— and thus on each night until the burial takes 
place. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

BRETON COSTUMES, LANDERNEU, LA GARDE JOYEUSE 

In Lower Brittany the costumes of the people 
are more interesting and unique. The coif worn 
by the women is a strong feature of the costume, 
each canton having its own special style, and any 
Breton woman knows the home of any other from 
the fashion of her headdress. How many de- 
lightful talks do we recall, sitting on a bench in 
some public square in Paris, with some Breton 
woman, won into this privilege through my having 
accosted her and placing her home-parish by means 
of her coif. There are over one thousand differ- 
ent coifs in Brittany. I have seen seven hun- 
dred in a single collection. Each style seems more 
interesting than another, and the laundering of 
these airy bits of finery would place many a Pari- 
sian laundress at a disadvantage. In some sections 
the peasant woman wears a black skirt scarcely 
reaching the ankle, a jacket of the bolero order 
and a chemisette which, like the coif, gives a 
touch of freshness to the costume. For fete-days, 
the jacket of the women, as well as the waistcoats 
(called gilets) of the men, are richly embroidered. 
And lastly, the apron! the apron of silk! What 

121 



122 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

endless economies have been practised in order to 
possess this culminating feature of the costume. 
It is sure to be of the most vivid colors — such un- 
relenting purples and crimsons and apple-greens 
as even the rankest impressionist never imagined! 
And be sure the creases in this silken bit of adorn- 
ment are always in evidence and are held as so 
many lines of beauty. Once accomplished, the 
apron of the Breton peasant lasts a lifetime, and is 
transmitted to posterity. Arriving home from the 
fete, the entire costume, saving the coif which is 
always worn, is carefully packed away in the 
carved family chest, there to repose until the oc- 
currence of some other festivity. 

In order to see the ancient costumes of the men 
one should attend a large fair or Pardon. At such 
times the old men come out in the toggery of their 
ancestors. Accordeon-pleated trousers confined at 
the knee with silver buckles, leggings and sabots, 
white chemisette, embroidered gilets, velvet jack- 
ets ornamented with many buttons, a broad belt 
with ponderous buckle, the hat broad-brimmed, 
low-crowned, with long, floating ends of velvet rib- 
bon fastened by a silver buckle. The young Breton 
to-day holds to the gilet, chemisette and low hat 
with floating ribbons. But in order to get a true 
idea of the costume our Breton should be inside it. 
It all goes together. Much time and zeal are ex- 
pended in the embroideries employed in the cos- 
tumes. Usually this ornamental work is done by 



BRETON COSTUMES . 123 

the men, the women going into the field, leaving 
her lord at home at his embroidering! To-day the 
costume is worn only by the peasants. Formerly 
the nobility wore the same, and it was thus that 
the Breton lords went to the Parliament and to the 
Royal Court at Paris. 

In the time of Louis XII, Anne of Brittany, his 
queen, made many Breton families popular at 
Court. The large trousers worn to the knee, of the 
later period of Henry II to Henry IV, originated 
in the Keltic braves, brago bras in Breton, the same 
that Caesar describes in his Commentaries (Gal- 
lia braccata.) 

But here we are talking of frills and furbelows, 
as our train is arriving at Landerneu. From Lan- 
derneu the river Elorn winds its way to Brest, a 
dozen miles away, between bold rocks on the left 
and the forest on the right bank. The bridge 
which spans the river, in the heart of the town of 
Landerneu, is of medieval origin, and is the only 
example of its kind in France. One of the two 
rows of buildings erected on the bridge remain 
— among these a mill, Gothic in style, with an in- 
scription in Gothic attesting that it was built by 
the Rohans in 15 10. The Lords of Landerneu 
were great in their day. Madame de Sevigne, 
whose chateau was in Northern Brittany, was not 
familiar with the elaborate costumes of Lower 
Brittany, and in one of her letters tells of a blunder 
on her part, owing to this ignorance. One imag- 



i2 4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

ines this clever woman was not often guilty of a 
faux pas! It occurred in Vitre, during the ses- 
sions of the Breton Parliament, at a house where 
she was intimate. She writes: "I saw before din- 
ner at the end of the room, a man whom I took 
to be the steward. I went to him and begged of 
him, 'Do let us dine, I am dead with hunger.' This 
man looked at me and replied with great polite- 
ness: 'My dear madame, I wish I might be so 
happy as to offer you dinner at my house. My 
name is Recardiere and my chateau is only two 
leagues from Landerneu.' It was a gentleman 
from Lower Brittany," adds Madame de Sevigne. 

Landerneu has been immortalized by her moon. 
A Sire de Landerneu, at Versailles where the 
splendours of the Court failed to impress him, re- 
marked that the moon at Landerneu was much 
larger than that of Versailles, and his saying passes 
still for a joke upon the Breton town. 

From this place we make various excursions. 
That to the ruins of the Garde Joyeuse of Arthur, 
celebrated in the romance of the Round Table, is 
most interesting. Only the subterranean vaults, 
the walls outlining the chateau and the gateway, 
wreathed with ivy, remain as a souvenir of that 
magical Round Table, about which the middle age 
grouped its ideals of heroism, beauty, love and loy- 
alty. So the Breton, backed by savants, claims that 
in the Forest of Landerneu Arthur at one time held 
his Court. 



BRETON COSTUMES 125 

As for ourselves, sitting on the greensward where 
once may have been the Court of Honor of this 
Garde Joyeuse, we are at least grateful that 
through this Legend we are possessed of that gal- 
lery of fine old pictures — the good King Arthur, 
Merlin the Enchanter — the wise Councillor Ger- 
vain, Parsifal, Champron of Spiritual Knighthood, 
as are the gallant Launcelot and Tristram of secu- 
lar chivalry — and in this soft color of a September 
afternoon we evoke the image of the proud and 
beautiful Guinevere, the tender Yseult with the 
blond hair, the sweet and patient Enid and the 
fairies of the company, Vivian and Morgan. 

The drive from Landerneu to Plougastel is de- 
lightful, the route following the windings of the 
river Elorn. Plougastel is noted for its wonderful 
calvary. This, one of the finest in Brittany, is 
of the sixteenth century, massive, crowned with 
two large square tablets one above the other. On 
these are sculptured scenes from the life of Christ 
— the Flight into Egypt, the Marriage of Cana, 
the Foot Washing and the drama of the Passion 
being elaborately set forth. Over two hundred fig- 
ures are sculptured, inartistically, but with a cer- 
tain force and with great naivete. In the scene of 
the triumphant return of Christ to Jerusalem, our 
Lord is preceded by Breton peasants in national 
costumes, playing bagpipes. 

A drive in quite another direction takes us to 
Notre Dame du Folgoat. In the days of Anne of 



126 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Brittany, Folgoat was as a place of pilgrimage 
what Lourdes is to-day. The miracle, which in the 
fourteenth century brought about the building of 
this beautiful church, is embodied in one of the 
best-known legends of Brittany. 

"A poor boy, named Calaun, better known as the 
Fool of the Forest of Folgoat, where he lived, had 
the habit of bathing in the water of a fountain, and 
after the bath swinging himself in the branches of 
a tree near the fountain until dry. He had a way 
of singing, as he thus swung, and his sole song was 
"Ave Maria." No other word ever passed his lips. 
He begged his bread from door to door. The 
legend records of him that he never gave offense 
to any one. Thus he lived for forty years. One 
day poor Salaun was found dead near the foun- 
tain. It was whispered about in the parish that the 
Virgin herself nursed and comforted him, and that 
dying, he repeated always the sweet name of Mary. 
The people of the hamlet buried him, and there 
sprang from his tomb a beautiful white lily of 
great fragrance, on the petals of which were traced 
in golden letters the words: "Ave Maria." The 
news spread from hamlet to hamlet, and all the 
people of the country flocked to Folgoat to see the 
miraculous lily. The clergy took the matter in 
hand, opened the grave and found that the lily 
had grown from the mouth of the poor boy. It 
was at once resolved to build a church there. Such 
is the origin of one of the finest monuments in 




PHOTO BY FRANCES N. COSTLING 



THE BONE HOUSE AT TREGASTEL, INSCRIBED 
'TODAY ME. TOMORROW THEE" 



BRETON COSTUMES 127 

Brittany. The fountain still exists and pilgrims 
seek its waters for cures of many maladies. Ex- 
cept for the pilgrimages Folgoat is quite deserted. 
The gem of the interior of the church is the richly 
carved screen in three arcades, sculptured in lace- 
like designs, although the material is the granite 
of Kersanton, of a quality more like iron than 
stone. In the sculptures which adorn the pulpit 
the legend of the Fool of the Forest is reproduced 
at the hands of a sculptor of no ordinary merit. 

On the twenty-ninth of August occurs the Fete 
of Notre Dame de Folgoat — a fete very popular. 
Every pardon, as such a fete is named, has its own 
characteristics — its special canticle. That of Fol- 
goat sets forth the legend of the Fool of the Forest 
and is sung to the music of a very ancient hymn, 
much employed by the early missionaries — prob- 
ably as early as the fifth century. 

Patronez dons ar Folgoat, 
Hor mam hag hon Itron, 
An dour en hon daoulagat, 
Ni ho ped a galon! 
Harpit an I Hz S ant el; 
Avel diroll a ra . . . 
Tenn hag hir eo ar brezel! 
Ar peoch Maria* 



* Douce patronne du Folgoat, Notre Mere et notre Dame. Les 
larrncs aux yeux, Nous vous prions de tout coeur, Secourez I'eglise 
Sainte. II y a grand vent, la lutte est dure et longue. Donnez-nous 
la paix, 6 Maria. 



CHAPTER XIX 

BREST AND THE ADJACENT ISLAND 

BREST is an important commercial point. It has 
a port of renown, a military record, fine fortifica- 
tions, a museum, a naval academy — all illustrative 
of the energy of Richelieu and Louis XIV. And 
to us of the United States there is the thrilling 
souvenir that from the harbour of Brest on July 
2, 1778, sailed the fleet which bore from the King 
of France the recognition of the success of our 
cause. The World War of 1914 made of Brest 
a port of great activity. When America entered 
the war it became the principal port of debarka- 
tion. 

"He is no Duke of Brittany, who is not master 
of Brest," was an old saying centuries ago. 

But far more interesting than Brest to the trav- 
eller is a certain island lying off against the west- 
ern horizon — an island surrounded by perilous 
seas and full of romantic interests. It is the Island 
of Ouessant — scene of many shipwrecks and of 
much suffering. Not a tree can find root upon this 

128 



BREST AND THE ADJACENT ISLAND 129 

block of granite. But in spite of an ungenial Na- 
ture, Ouessant yields a sturdy race of men and 
women. The coif of the women reminds one of 
the Neapolitan. The Island of Ouessant yields no 
money to the treasury of France, but it furnishes 
the bravest and most intrepid sailors to her marine. 
The record of Ouessant a few years ago was: 
"Neither a beggar, a rogue, a rich man nor a bot- 
tle of brandy on the island." There is on the island 
a circular wall of stones called: "The Temple of 
the Pagans," and at one point there is a row of 
upright stones. These recall legends of the druid- 
esses, which we shall mention when we visit 
Carnac. 

The qualities of the people of Ouessant are ad- 
mirable. Difficulties without danger often harden 
the disposition and make it selfish, while difficul- 
ties with danger sublimate the character and give 
it a romantic nature. To these people their life 
seems to have given a kind of noble recklessness, 
joined to unusual tenderness, made evident in their 
behavior in time of danger. Hospitality to the 
shipwrecked is the essential cult of these natives 
of Ouessant, and theft from the unhappy victims 
is a thing unknown. In the June of 1896 the Eng- 
lish ship Drummond Castle went to pieces of! thi^ 
island and many of the drowned bodies were 
washed ashore. To one who knows that the fete 
costume of a woman of Finistere is made to last 
a lifetime, and what store she sets on her meager 



i 3 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

supply of house linen, the scene of these peasants 
of Ouessant shrouding the bodies of the drowned 
English in their finest linen and dressing the young 
women and children in their own pretty costumes, 
suggests great sacrifice. They carved wooden 
crosses for each coffin, women knelt beside these, 
the night through, praying for the souls of the 
shipwrecked. The parish priest next day said mass 
and the burials were made in the little cemetery 
of the island amid the tears and prayers of the 
entire population. Such scenes are not unfamiliar 
at Ouessant, and the recitals of the heroism of its 
brave men and generous and tender women make 
of this barren granite rock a precious record of 
the good that is in human nature. 

The sea that washes the rugged coasts of Brit- 
tany is sown with islands — each with its own 
especial story — often dramatic and thrilling. 
Stretching far out into these turbulent waters, 
Brittany is itself almost an island and at Pointe du 
Raz in Finistere, furnishes the most western point 
of the European continent. 

Following the coast line to the north we find the 
island Sein, the Sena of the Roman historian. The 
passage from the Pointe du Raz to this island is 
dangerous, and the ancient prayer still serves the 
mariner of to-day: "Help me, O God, in cross- 
ing the Raz. My boat is so small and the sea is 
so large." 

It is a bleak bit of an island and is associated 



BREST AND THE ADJACENT ISLAND 131 

with the druidesses — for the tradition is that on 
this island lived the nine damsels to whom was en- 
trusted the sacred vase of the druids. These gath- 
ered, with strict regard to planetary rule, the po- 
tent herbs which, mixed with foam of the sea, and 
boiled a year and a day, furnished the water of 
inspiration to the druidic bard. The decoction 
was placed in a sacred vase and three drops of this 
mystic brew, placed upon the lips by the hand, 
enabled him to behold the future. 

To-day we find druidic stones survive as souve- 
nirs of the sacred nine who inhabited the island. 
There are but two wells of water on the island, 
these to-day form the centre of social life. Young 
girls fill their water jugs and lean upon the rail- 
ing listening to the tale of the lover. The scene re- 
minds one of patriarchal days. In the little church 
the poetic Breton Angelus is still sung. But, un- 
like their neighbours of the island of Ouessant, 
alchoholism has made a footing on the isle of Sein. 
Every pretext for libations is improved — baptisms 
of babies, baptisms of ships, religious fetes, wed- 
dings and burials. They make a pleasure of be- 
coming intoxicated — suggesting a touch of epi- 
cureanism which Horace would have loved. 

Villemarque quotes a saying commonly em- 
ployed by the imbiber of the isle of Sein — as he 
lifts his glass to his lips: "Within this cup which 
I now drain shines the entrance of the earthly 
Paradise." This sentiment so coincides with Er- 



132 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

nest Renan's statement concerning the tendency of 
the Breton to drunkenness that it is worth noting. 
He says: "The essential element of the Breton 
character is ideality — the pursuit of the unknown. 
His imagination is boundless. This element of 
the Breton nature is seen even in his tendency to 
drunkenness. It comes from this invincible need 
of illusions, not from gross appetite, for never were 
people less given to grossness or sensuality — No/ 
the Breton seeks in his hydromel a vision of some- 
thing outside himself. He forever hungers and 
thirsts for what is unknown and invisible." 

One of the most important islands is Belle-Ile- 
en-Mer. The entire island is a plateau lying one 
hundred and fifty feet above the sea and it possesses 
sixty safe harbors. The soil is good and well cul- 
tivated, and the island is sown with little villages. 
The climate is so genial that the laurel and fig tree 
flourish. A romantic interest attaches itself to this 
island. In 1572 the Abbes of St. Croix ceded the 
island to Marshal de Retz (Rais), the original of 
the Breton Blue Beard Legends, in exchange for 
land on the continent. His descendant, Cardinal 
de Retz, brought great fortune to the island. The 
wit, sangfroid, elegance and love affairs of this 
lover of the Duchesse de Longueville are always 
associated with the place. When the Cardinal es- 
caped from prison he fled to this island. Later on 
he sold the island to Fouquet, Louis XIV's Minis- 
ter of Finance, who himself was arrested in 1661 



BREST AND THE ADJACENT ISLAND 133 

for irregularities. He had a dream of entrench- 
ing himself at Belle-Ile and resisting Louis XIV, 
but awoke from his dream to find himself in the 
Bastille. Alexander Dumas places on this island a 
scene from the, "Three Musketeers," and Balzac 
chooses it as the scene of a novel. And lastly comes 
Sarah Bernhardt to perch herself in one of the de- 
serted towers of the fortifications, for her short 
summer holiday. The peasants of the island com- 
prehended with difficulty the movements and hab- 
its of the "great Sarah," who, with her pet lions, 
dogs and other animals, her pistols, guns and tar- 
get-shooting, made the island lively for these prim- 
itive folk, during every August. But her generous 
and tactful consideration of the needs of the people 
and their little churches has won the affection of 
her fellow islanders. 

The crossing to Belle-Ile from Quiberon is dif- 
ficult and must be attempted only at the discretion 
of the sailors, who know the perils of these waters. 



CHAPTER XX 

AUDIERNE AND THE LEGEND OF YS 

RETURNING from the Isle of Sein to the main- 
land, we come to Audierne. Some of the letters 
of Robert Browning have made many familiar 
with this part of Brittany. 

All about this bay of Douarnenez legends of 
these wild seas abound. No one of these is so 
prominent as the Legend of Ys, an ancient city 
which stood on the shore of the Bay of Douar- 
ninez. 

The French composer Lalo, in his opera "he 
Rot d'Ys" makes use of a libretto of which this 
legend furnishes the thesis. The Legend of Ys 
tells us that the great King Gradlon had for his 
chief Councillor St. Corentin of Quimper. This 
Saint often visited the King at Ys and preached 
against the iniquities practised in that city. Now 
the daughter of Gradlon, Princess Dahut, was the 
most wicked person in the city. The peasants of 
Huelgoat in Finistere still point out a gulf into 
which Dahut had an unpleasant habit of throw- 
ing her discarded lovers. But at last God wished 

134 



AUDIERNE AND THE LEGEND OF YS 135 

to punish the city of Ys for its crimes, and Dahut 
became his instrument. The gates of the dykes 
and locks, which protected the city from the sea, 
could be unlocked only by the King with a gold 
key which he always wore suspended about his 
neck. To one of her lovers Dahut had promised 
this key. While her father slept she stole it from 
his neck. Shortly after, torrents of water flooded 
the city! St. Guenole hastened to Gradlon and 
warned him to flee. The King took his daughter 
but was overtaken by the waves. A terrible voice 
commanded Gradlon to separate himself from his 
daughter, who rode behind him in the saddle. The 
King recognized this as the voice of God. He 
abandoned his daughter to the waves and the 
waters subsided. But the City of Ys with all its 
inhabitants was submerged, and next day only the 
Bay of Douarnenez was to be seen. There is an 
ancient song, discovered by Villemarque and trans- 
lated by him from the Keltic into French, entitled 
"The Submersion of Ys," in which the horse of 
Gradlon is represented as a wild horse and the 
daughter turned into a mermaid. We give a free 
translation of the poem, much less poetic than it 
should be. 

The song is in five scenes and goes thus: 

Scene I 

"Hast thou heard? Hast thou heard what the 
man of God said to King Gradlon of Ys? These 



1 36 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

are the words which the holy man said to King 
Gradlon of Ys: 'Beware of giving yourself up to 
pleasure. Beware of giving yourself up to fol- 
lies. After pleasure comes grief.' " 

Scene II 

King Gradlon spake unto his guests at the feast: 
"Oh! joyous guests, I fain would go to my cham- 
ber and sleep." Then answered him those at the 
feast : "Oh ! King, stay with us. Stay with us yet a 
little. To-morrow can ye sleep. Nevertheless do 
what seemeth good unto thee." Then the lover 
whispers softly — whispers softly in the ear of the 
King's daughter these words: "Sweet Dahut, the 
key." And the Princess whispered softly, whis- 
pered softly in the ear of her lover: "The key shall 
be stolen — the gates that guard the city from the 
sea shall be unlocked. Let all things be unto thy 
desire." 

Scene III 

Now whosoever had seen the old King asleep in 
his chamber would have been moved with admira- 
tion — with admiration — seeing him asleep in his 
royal chamber — seeing him robed in his purple 
mantle — his snow-white hair floating over his 
shoulders and the gold chain with the golden key, 
about his neck. 




A BRETON FISHERMAN 
After the picture by Lucicn Simon 



AUDIERNE AND THE LEGEND OF YS 137 

And whosoever had been watching would have 
seen the white young girl entering softly, bare- 
footed — entering softly the chamber of the King. 
She draws near to the King, her father. She 
kneels. She steals from his neck the gold chain 
and the key. 

Scene IV 

He sleeps on. The King sleeps on. But a shout 
arises from below: "The Sea! The Sea! The 
Sea has burst forth! The city is submerged." 
(Then St. Guenole appears.) "My Lord! Oh, 
King! arise, arise and mount the swiftest horse. 
The Sea, let loose, has burst its dykes. Cursed be 
the white young girl who has opened the gates of 
the locks of Ys — this barrier of the Sea." 

Scene V 

"Woodsman! Woodsman! tell me — hast thou 
seen the wild horse of King Gradlon pass through 
the valley?" "I have not seen the wild horse of 
King Gradlon pass through the valley. I only 
heard in the black night the sound of his hoofs: 
trip-trep — trip-trep, swift as fire." "Hast thou 
seen, oh! fisherwoman, the daughter of the Sea, 
the white daughter of the Sea combing her golden 
hair at mid-day — at mid-day, on the shore of the 
Sea?" "I have heard her singing, sitting on the 



138 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

shore of the Sea, combing her golden hair. I 
have heard her singing. Her songs are as sad as 
the waves." 

The French critics say that of the writings of 
Ernest Renan two bits share the honour of being 
the most beautiful — one of these is: "The Prayer 
on the Acropolis" — the other, the preface of his 
volume: "Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse." 
The latter, from which we quote, we owe to this 
Breton Legend of Ys. Renan says: "One of the 
legends, the best known in Brittany, is that of a 
pretended city of Ys, which, at an unknown epoch, 
was swallowed up by the sea. They point out the 
site of this fabulous city and the fishermen tell you 
strange tales. On days of tempest they assure you 
they see in the trough of the waves the peaks of its 
church spires. On calm days they hear rising from 
its depths the sound of its bells intoning the hymn 
of the day." 



CHAPTER XXI 

QUIMPER, LA FAOUET, ST. FIACRE AND THE 
VENUS OF QUINIPILY 

It OFTEN happens to the traveller in Brittany, to 
encounter in unexpected places, beautiful and 
ancient chapels — sometimes in the depths — some- 
times on the edge of a forest, sometimes standing 
quite alone in a field. Most of these have fallen 
into disuse but not into decay. A celebrated 
French archaeologist, Freminville, holds that as St. 
Louis brought architects from the Orient, we owe 
many of the architectural treasures of France to 
them. A local Breton tradition has it that several 
of the churches in Finistere were formerly con- 
ventual houses of the Order of the Templars and 
it is an established fact that the Knights of the 
Temple of Jerusalem had many possessions in 
Brittany, priories, commanderies, chapels, etc. 

A mile from Landerneu we find a chapel of the 
sixteenth century dedicated to St. Eloi. This holy 
personage is represented in the liturgy of Brittany 
with twofold attributes of Bishop and Blacksmith. 
He is one of the patron saints of horses. 

139 



t 4 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

And now, although there are many other places 
of interest in the region about Landerneu, we 
must leave them behind and take train for Quim- 
per, our next objective point. This, like all Bret- 
on towns, has its local legends. Chief of these 
is that of St. Corentin, who went into retirement 
at Plomodiern near Quimper. Here occurred the 
miracle of the fish, a morsel of which he ate daily, 
the remainder resuming at once its entirety. No 
wonder he became Bishop of the Diocese. This 
was in the fifth century. St. Corentin is to-day the 
patron of the town, and its lovely cathedral is dedi- 
cated to his name. This dates from the twelfth 
century. Tombs of dukes, archbishops and numer- 
ous knights and ladies line the outer aisles, and the 
panels of the granite pulpit represent various epi- 
sodes in the life of the Saint. 

It is at Quimper that we purchase the Breton 
faience, which is so popular with artists and which 
has come to be considerably known in the United 
States. The river Odet runs through the principal 
street of the town, the favourite promenade of the 
citizens being along the banks. From our windows 
of the hotel we see the women washing their linen 
in the stream as their mothers and grandmothers 
did in their time. 

From Quimper we will make a little excursion 
into the mountainous part of Brittany. The Black 
and the Arez mountains, we should call them hills, 
offer picturesque scenery, and the people are more 



QUIMPER, LA FAOUET, ST. FIACRE 141 

primitive in their ideas than those on the coasts. 
Folk-Lorists find many curious tales and songs in 
the mountains of Arez, where they are still sung 
in the Breton language. 

La Faouet is one of the interesting places which 
we shall find in this side-journey. And there is 
Carhaix, birthplace of the First Grenadier of 
France, and if one's visit chance to coincide with 
its fete on the last Sunday in August, the place of 
the famous wrestling matches. And Pontivy with 
its ruined castle of the Rohans. 

The presiding saint of La Faouet is St. Fiacre, 
patron of horticulturists. It has come about that 
Fiacre is also the patron of the Paris cabbies — in 
this way. Long ago an Irishman named Savage 
brought to Paris many plants hitherto unknown in 
France — in fact he gave a great impetus to horti- 
culture in that country. He chose for his patron 
St. Fiacre. A compatriot of his later on inaugu- 
rated a line of public carriages and on every one, 
in compliment to his fellow Irishman, the face of 
St. Fiacre was painted, as a distinguishing feature 
of his undertaking. This caused the vehicle itself 
to take the name of the Patron Saint of Horticul- 
ture — thus sharing in the protection of a saint al- 
ways honoured in Paris as well as in Brittany. 

Our next point of interest is Quimperle. This 
town possesses most interesting churches, is alto- 
gether a charming place, planted amidst verdure 
and flowers in the valley of the two rivers; the 



1 42 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Elle and the Isole, which, after their juncture, take 
the name La Lai'ta. Everything about the place 
is as pretty as are the names of its rivers, and Quim- 
perle fairly deserves the title given it: "The Ar- 
cady of Lower Brittany." 

In the court of a chateau near Le Faouet, of 
which nothing now remains but the entrance gate- 
way, we find by far the most curious archaeological 
object in the Province — "The Venus of Quinip- 
ily." It is six feet high, and its origin has served 
as a perpetual puzzle to the archaeologists. Some 
believe it to be an Egyptian statue, others a 
Roman — Prosper Merimee places it in the six- 
teenth century — but the majority of savants to-day 
believe it to be of a more ancient date. M. Cayot 
Delandre insists that it is an Isis; it has the Egyp- 
tian characteristics: the stiffness of pose, the mate- 
rial, the coiffure and stole. He accounts for its 
presence where it now stands thus: Certain Orien- 
tal legions were incorporated in the Roman army 
which guarded the mountains of Casternec, in this 
region where archaeologists place the Roman sta- 
tion of Sulis. These Oriental legions brought with 
them their Goddess or Divinity for protection from 
danger. 

The Bretons call this statue "Groach er Gouard" 
— (Sorceress of the Guard) — a name which dates 
from a remote period. This statue has been vener- 
ated by the Bretons for hundreds of years. It was 
especially invoked by husbands and wives desirous 



QUIMPER, LA FAOUET, ST. FIACRE 143 

of having children. The clergy disapproved of 
the cult and threw the statue into the river, where 
it lay for a century or more. The Bretons then 
recovered it and the cult was resumed ; they were 
about to demolish it when the Count owning the 
chateau — himself something of an archaeologist — 
rescued it, and placed it on a pedestal in the court 
of his chateau — and there the Isis stands solitary 
in its lonely environment — an Isis in this strangely 
Roman Catholic country — is indeed an anachro- 
nism. No one has been able to decipher the char- 
acters engraved on the forehead (L. I. I. or I. 
L. I., or something similar.) 

The costume of the women of Quimperle thrills 
all feminine Brittany with the same emotions that 
a Doucet or Paquin gown inspires in the heart of 
some of us. 

Lastly Quimperle boasts of an excellent hotel — 
the Lion d'Or, where everything essential is to be 
found — even to the ghost which walks at midnight 
through the main corridor. 



CHAPTER XXII 

THE COUNTRY OF "GUENN" 

FROM Quimperle we drive to the two little towns 
made familiar to us, under fictitious names — years 
ago— through Blanche Willis Howard's story of 
"Guenn." The book so thoroughly describes these 
two places that we need not repeat. In fact a trav- 
eller visiting Pont-Aven and Concarneau is likely 
to find himself verifying the book at every turn. 
The mistress of the Hotel des Voyageurs described 
so perfectly in the book thus: "Madame had the 
air of a Roman matron in a Breton coif" — is still 
living not far from her little hotel and she tells us 
many interesting things sitting with us over our 
coffee at one of the tables outside. Tells us how 
the author of the book, which was written in the 
corner room up one flight, used to inveigle her into 
long conversations, she herself little suspecting 
that she was being put into a story. Nor did she 
know her fate until ten years after the book was 
printed, when an American arriving in Concarneau 
drew from his pocket the "Tauchnitz," and pro- 

144 



THE COUNTRY OF "GUENN" 145 

ceeded to verify its characters, beginning with 
Madame herself. She tells us of the good cure of 
the Lannions in the story, how on stormy nights he 
used to light his lantern and search along the rocky 
shores of his island for the shipwrecked — how he 
worked among his fisher folk and shared his food 
and money with them, visiting the sick, comfort- 
ing the afflicted. He died only a few years ago — 
died on his island among his people — instead of 
wandering off to Rome and immuring himself in 
a cloister as the story has it. And our "Roman 
matron in a coif" takes us to see "Guenn" — the 
veritable "Guenn" of the story, who escaped the 
drowning of the last chapter only to marry a 
"ne'er-do-well." We drive to the house in a 
shabby quarter of the town, and are told that 
"Guenn" is at the lavoir doing the family washing. 
Thither we go. The scene seems little changed 
to-day. The women bend over their pile of linen ; 
the paddles and the tongues are all going together; 
rows of many-colored and much patched garments 
hang over the hedges drying in the sun. Only the 
actors in the scene are changed — of the old group 
described in the book — only "Guenn" remains. 
She bends over the soiled linen of her pathetic 
menage. She soaps and paddles, but she does not 
sing as of old — not even her "wicked little song" 
does she sing. She looks up from her paddling — 
seeks Madame of the Voyageurs, always a stanch 
friend — in the book and out of it — and she 



146 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

comes. The years have made havoc of the 
lines of her face. There is nothing left of the 
flashing exuberant child. Poverty and discipline 
have had their way. But in the pathetic face 
turned up to us we find a pair of fine eyes — tired- 
looking they are, but still full of expression, and 
we sigh: Poor little "Guenn"! 

On a lovely summer afternoon at Nizon, which 
is near Pont-Aven, the sound of the vesper bells 
of the ancient church recalled this old song. It is 
supposed to be sung by a young Breton of the par- 
ish of Nizon and portrays the naive and delicate 
wooing of the Breton youth. 

"All of the household have gone to the aire neuve, 
I also must go with them to the fete : 

Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring. 
There was no lack of young men at the fete 
Nor of pretty girls was there lack. 

Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring. 
My heart beat when I heard the binions playing, 
Then I saw a young girl dancing: 
She was as sweet as a turtle dove. 

Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring. 
Her eyes shone like drops of dew on the 
Blossom of the white thorn at the dawning of the 
day. 

Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring. 
And they were blue like the flower of the flax, 
Her teeth were as beautiful as precious stones. 



THE COUNTRY OF "GUENN" 147 

Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring. 
And she was full of life and joy. And she looked 
At me. And I — I looked at her. And I went to 

her 
To invite her To invite her for the gavotte. 

Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring. 
And as we danced together 
— As we danced I pressed her little 
White hand. And she began to smile — 
To smile as sweetly as an angel in Paradise. 
And I began to smile at her. And from 
That moment I love only her. 

Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring. 
To-night at twilight I shall go to her, and I 
Shall take to her a velvet ribbon and a cross, 
A band of velvet and a cross. Oh ! how it will 
Glisten on her little bare throat, and I 
Will take to her a silver ring to put upon 
Her pretty little finger — 

To put upon her finger that she may sometimes 
think of me. 

Ring, bells of Nizon — ring, ring!" 



CHAPTER XXIII 

BRIZEUX— THE NATIONAL POET OF BRITTANY 

Leaving Concarneau, an hour by train brings 
us to Lorient. As a town, the place contains little 
of interest. It is ugly, modern and commercial. 
But there is one spot here to which the faithful 
pilgrim is sure to turn. Not for its beauty of sur- 
rounding, for the cemetery of Lorient shares the 
ugliness of the town. But in this cemetery is the 
tomb of Brittany's national poet — Brizeux. 

To know the poems of Brizeux is to know the 
Bretons and Lower Brittany. They record the 
traits and customs of his people. In these verses 
the poet sings of his youth, of the little "Morie" 
of the Pardons, the fete of St. Jean, the songs of 
the bards, the tales of the beggars — of the fairies 
and dolmens and legends of his country. His 
"Sea-Gulls," a song sung by the young girls of Le 
Croisic as their lovers depart on their long voyage, 
is perhaps the most popular of the poems of 
Brizeux. 

At the inauguration of the Statue of Brizeux at 

148 



BRIZEUX 149 

Lorient in 1888, Ernest Renan in his discourse, in 
such exquisite French which even translation into 
English does not rob of its beauty, said: "It has 
been said that Brizeux made Brittany known to 
France. It is perhaps saying too much. But he 
certainly portrays one exquisite thing among oth- 
ers — and that is — Breton love — wise, tender, pro- 
found and faithful — with its delicate touch of mys- 
ticism. In the poem 'Morie' he shows us two 
young people passing hours together without 
speaking a word, hers a sweet, modest, rosy face 
under a little white coif — nothing more — for 
Brizeux that suffices. What adorable simplicity 
of means! — no jewels, no costumes — scarcely flow- 
ers — mere color is useless — the black and white of 
the peasant of Finistere suffice to set off the rich- 
ness of a virginal tint. The effect of beauty ob- 
tained by charm. This is the triumph of the 
Breton esthetic — therein is the art of Brizeux." 

Some years ago we celebrated at Lorient the 
centennial of the birth of Brizeux. It required 
three days to complete the ceremonies which in- 
cluded a requiem mass in the church, a gala per- 
formance at the theatre, processions to the house 
where the poet was born in 1803, to his statue on 
the public square, and to his tomb. At all three 
places the poets recited their verses, and the bards 
sang their songs. Garden parties with national 
dances and binion playing and a final banquet com- 
bined to restore to the people of Lorient the souve- 



150 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

nirs of the poet who is more dear to the bards of 
Brittany than any other of the Breton poets. 

Visiting the tomb of Brizeux, we are glad that 
his wish, expressed in the "Song of the Oak" (re- 
calling the druidic bards of old Armorica), has 
been carried out, and the description written there- 
on reads: "He sang of his country and made it 
beloved." 



CHAPTER XXIV 

HENNEBONT AND THE BALLAD OF JEANNE DE 
MONTFORT 

From Lorient we travel by train for a half-hour 
and arrive at Hennebont. The old town is inter- 
esting to-day because of its medieval streets and 
houses and its beautiful Gothic church. But Hen- 
nebont tells an ancient story — one of the most ro- 
mantic in Breton history. That of Jeanne de 
Montfort, a very intrepid woman of the fifteenth 
century, who gave a Jeanne d'Arc to Brittany, 
eighty-five years before France found her own 
Maid of Orleans. 

During the one hundred years war in the four- 
teenth century the Duchy of Brittany was claimed 
by both the Count of Montfort, half-brother of 
Duke John III of Brittany, and Charles of Blois, 
nephew of Philippe le Bel, King of France. At 
one moment Brittany was without a leader. The 
Duke of Montfort had been captured in battle and 
imprisoned in the Louvre at Paris. Brittany, in her 
helplessness, was in danger of turning to Charles 

151 



152 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

of Blois. The Countess Jeanne de Montfort was 
at Rennes when she learned of the imprisonment 
of her husband. After a period of grief she took 
courage and set out as a soldier. A fourteenth cen- 
tury militant was our Jeanne de Montfort! Car- 
rying her baby in her arms she went to the Parlia- 
ment of her Province where she inspired all with 
hope and courage, after which she goes on horse- 
back through Lower Brittany putting garrisons in 
order and prepares her army. Charles of Blois, 
in the spring of 1342, starts out with his army, 
thinking to make an easy conquest of a country 
without a leader. But Jeanne had foreseen every- 
thing and was ready for him. Never had the hour 
and the woman so coincided in the annals of Brit- 
tany. 

She came to the town we are now visiting — Hen- 
nebout. She sent messengers to England to seek 
aid of Edward III. Froissart's story has it that 
Jeanne herself went upon this mission and tells 
how she arrived at the Court at the moment when 
the King was giving a fete to his favourite, the 
Countess of Salisbury. Such is the authority which 
true courage lends. When Jeanne de Montfort 
was announced the knights strove for the privilege 
of being first to salute her. The Countess of Salis- 
bury kissed the hand that had learned to carry a 
sword, and at once, under the inspiration of the 
scene, Edward promised to Jeanne de Montfort the 
aid of forty-six ships. 



HENNEBONT 153 

In this intelligent Duchess of Brittany, we find 
our heroine as redoubtable under the helmet as 
she had been charming under the "hennin" (the 
tall, conical head-dress of the period) managing 
the sword as she had managed the distaff. 

We see her entrenched behind her fortifications 
on the heights of Hennebont, and the town be- 
sieged by Charles of Blois and his army. From a 
loophole of the western tower she watches for the 
arrival of the English ships, meanwhile instruct- 
ing her soldiers and resisting the siege. Then at 
the last moment the fleet arrives — the ships of 
King Edward with six thousand archers. Frois- 
sart tells us (precious old gossip that he is!) how 
Jeanne kissed each brave captain on both cheeks 
and praised him in turn. 

We see her surprise the camp of the enemy, 
through stratagem — rescuing her soldiers held as 
prisoners. Finally Charles of Blois is obliged to 
abandon the siege of Hennebont — and all because 
of a woman ! The incredible audacity of our hero- 
ine in going in person to set fire to the enemy's 
camp earned for her the title : "J eanne ~l a "Flamme" 
and the episode furnished material for a popular 
song bearing that title, the translation of which 
from the Keltic into French we owe to M. Ville- 
marque. Add to this our own into English and 
one realizes how much the flavor of the song has 
been sacrificed. The story is given in four parts 
or scenes. 



154 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Scene I 

"What is this which I behold, clinging to the 
heights of Hennebont? Is it a flock of black sheep 
which I see in the distance? — It is not a flock of 
black sheep. It is an army — a French army on the 
march — marching to lay siege to the town of Hen- 
nebont." 

Scene II 

When the Countess Jeanne made the tour of the 
town at the head of her soldiers all the bells of 
Hennebont were set-ringing. When she rode upon 
her white steed with her child upon her knee, all 
the people of Hennebont shouted with joy: "May 
God protect mother and son and may He put to 
route the French." As the procession came to an 
end they heard the French army shouting: "And 
now we come. We come to capture every living 
soul of the town of Hennebont. We come to cap- 
ture the hind and her fawn. We have chains of 
gold wherewith to bind them one to the other." 

Then answered Jeanne la-Flamme from the top 
of her tower: "It is not the hind who will be cap- 
tured. As to the wicked wolf, that I will not say. 
If to-night the wolf is cold, it is I who will warm 
his den." And having thus spoken, she descended, 
furious. And she put on a corset of steel. And she 
coiffed herself in a black helmet. And she armed 



HENNEBONT 155 

herself with a sharp-edged sword. And, carrying 
in her hand a flaming torch, she set out from one of 
the gates of the town. 

Scene III 

Now the French were singing gaily as they were 
seated at table. Gathered together in their closed 
tents, the French were singing gaily in the night. 
When in the distance might have been heard a 
strange voice — a strange voice singing in solemn 
tones : "More than one now eating white bread will 
soon be biting the cold black earth. More than 
one who now boasts shall soon be reduced to 
ashes." 

Many were lying — overcome with much drink- 
ing — their heads upon the tables, when the alarm 
was sounded: "Fire! Fire! It is Jeanne-la- 
Flamme! forsooth, the most daring woman in all 
France!" 

Jeanne-la-Flamme had set blazing the four cor- 
ners of the French camp, and the wind spread the 
flames and illumined the black night, and the tents 
were burned and the French consumed — three 
thousand reduced to ashes and only a hundred es- 
caped. 

Scene IV 

Now Jeanne-la-Flamme, next morning, stood 
smiling at the top of her tower. Looking down 
upon the plain and seeing the French camp de- 



156 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

stroyed and the smoke still rising from the 
tents reduced to embers — said Jeanne-la-Flamme: 
"Mon Dieu! What a splendid tillage! Mon 
Dieu! What a splendid tillage! For every grain 
of barley we shall have ten. The old Romans said 
truly: "There is nothing so good as the bones of 
Gauls — nothing so good as the bones of Gauls — 
ground fine — for making the barley grow." 

The hatred of the French name flashes out hor- 
ribly in this song and suggests the wild beast — 
long-hunted, turning at last upon his destroyers. 
This was indeed the position of Brittany in respect 
to France. 

Froissart, in describing the exploits of Jeanne de 
Montfort, accentuates no act of hers so rudely as 
does this ancient song. But this War of the Suc- 
cession was on both sides remarkable for its 
cruelty. As always in the Middle Age, side by 
side existed the sentiment of chivalry, the fervor of 
Christianity and the ferocity of "barbaric times, and 
in judging of Jeanne de Montfort we must place 
her in her times. 

But we must descend from our heights of Henne- 
bont and its bellicose souvenirs and rearrange our 
dispositions entirely. For our next journey leads 
us on a pious pilgrimage to St. Anne d'Auray. Pil- 
grimages of great importance occur here twice a 
year — one in the week following Whitsunday, the 
other on St. Anne's Day, the twenty-sixth of July. 



HENNEBONT 157* 

While the Pardon of St. Yves at Treguier honours 
the national Saint — the Church Calendar that of 
St. Anne, which is more thronged by devotees of 
the Mother of the Virgin and Auray being a cen- 
tral point, the pilgrims flock from all quarters, and 
the traveller has the valuable opportunity of see- 
ing a greater variety of costumes than at any other 
gathering. 



CHAPTER XXV 

CARNAC AND LEGENDS OF THE DRUIDS 

We NEXT come to Carnac — the cradle of Gallic 
Druidism. Our first impression was received 
under a windy night sky, the moon now and then 
lifting the somber shadows of the plain. Grey 
stones of various heights and dimensions stand 
mute and solemn. Some of them in long rows — 
here and there a menhir towers above the others. 
The remains of a cromlech — the sacred circle out- 
lined at one end of the plain. We wander among 
these queer grey stones and recall the legends as- 
sociated with them. Especially on such a night, 
under this varying sky, does fancy create weird 
pictures in the midst of the uncertain shadows. 
We conjure forms of druidic priestesses as pic- 
tured in the legends — their soft white woollen 
robes floating in the night wind, their bracelets and 
girdles of gold gleaming in the moonlight, the 
wreath of mystic verveine on their heads — armed 
with torches — dancing their swinging, swaying 
dance. Jubanivelle of the Sorbonne, the acknowl- 

158 



CARNAC AND LEGENDS OF THE DRUIDS 159 

edged authority, tells us that the Stones of Carnac 
— although employed by the druids in practicing 
their ceremonies, were placed where they now 
stand thousands of years before the druids came 
into Gaul. Their origin remains a mystery. 
These stones tell no tales. There are no inscrip- 
tions — no hieroglyphics to decipher. Even the 
"grey cult," as druidism has been named, is nearly 
obliterated by the three thousand years that have 
swept over it, and fancy must now serve as ma- 
gician to conjure pictures of its strange and unex- 
plained past. A few stanzas of their chief bard 
Taliesin, — whose mystical poems are believed by 
some to be derived from the sources of druidism 
— and some of the laws and customs and beliefs of 
this strange people, exist to-day. Some of the laws 
which have been preserved are interesting. Caesar 
wrote: "It is a law of the druids that no man shall 
be richer than his neighbour." Other laws were : 
"Do not discuss religion among yourselves." "The 
druid shall be pure and chaste." "Be mute in 
presence of a stranger." "Women may be judges 
and arbiters." "Foreign merchants are forbidden 
to import luxuries among us." "Usury is a theft 
and you owe the usurer nothing." "Marry your 
wife without a dowry." "No children shall be 
brought up in cities. The child shall be brought 
up in the villages, otherwise the Republic has no 
use for him." "A man at the age of twenty-five 
having too large a waist-line shall be put to death 



160 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

for gluttony." Some of these laws certainly sug- 
gest the ideas of Emersonian "plain living and 
high thinking" among these men of oak. It is said 
that with the druids there were seven senses, appe- 
tite and aversion being admitted to the number — 
hence perhaps the phrase: "frightened out of his 
seven senses." 

Through the few fragments that have survived 
savants have sought to solve the mystery of the cult 
practiced among these stones, but Carnac keeps 
the secret of her grandeur — lugubrious and silent. 
Robert Browning, in the sixteenth stanza of the 
"Two Poets of Croisic," writes — alluding to the 
desire to know the secret of these stones: "Each 
pale man importunes — vainly, the mumbling to 
speak plain once more." 

On the sixteenth of September — sometimes on 
the fifteenth, if the day chance to be a Sunday, the 
Pardon of St Comely occurs at Carnac. What a 
great Saint is Comely! For he not only saved 
Carnac by turning the invading Roman soldiers to 
stone — do we not see these thousands of upright 
stones still standing as witnesses to the mir- 
acle? — But St. Comely is also the guardian of 
horned cattle. After High Mass of the day of the 
fete — the cattle, decked with ribbons and flowers, 
are brought to the door of the church — there the 
clergy in gorgeous vestments, the altar boys swing- 
ing the burning censers, bless the cattle and sprin- 
kle them with holy water. The cattle are then 



CARNAC AND LEGENDS OF THE DRUIDS 161 

driven to the market and sold at auction. The 
owners often bid them in themselves. The pres- 
ence of one of these cattle preserves an entire herd 
from disease. A strange custom — named the noc- 
turnal cult. 

Notwithstanding endless sanctiflcations the 
ancient beliefs connected with the stones persist, 
but under new names. The menhirs, dolmens 
and rocking stones scattered through Brittany are 
sought to-day for various purposes. 

To cite several instances. On the Island of Sein 
persons with fever send to have placed at the foot 
of the menhir nine pebbles which must be brought 
in the pocket handkerchief of the sick person. 
Whoever takes away these pebbles takes the fever, 
thus ridding the patient of his malady. 

At Locmariaquer, near Carnac, a young girl 
wishing to marry within the year climbs to the top 
of the highest menhir on the night of the first of 
May, gathers up her skirts and slides down to the 
ground. In Ille-et-Vilaine a similar practice ex- 
ists — married people visit these stones to cure 
sterility. At Plouet (C6tes-du-Nord) there is a 
famous stone of this class. Often bits of ribbon 
or woollen stuff are placed on the stone as offer- 
ings — newly married couples seek the menhir of 
Plouarzel, the largest in Finistere. Through the 
rites practised there the husband believes he will 
be the father of boys rather than girls. 

If engaged couples utter their vows across dol- 



162 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

mens, which have certain ruts on their surface, 
and gather the herbs growing beneath the stones, 
the marriage will be a happy one. Most of the 
rites practised at druidistic stones have to do with 
love and fecundity, and are performed clandes- 
tinely. The fact that these stones have acquired a 
degree of polish at certain places attest to the fre- 
quency of these rites. 

Near the Bourg of Plouaret is a dolmen sur- 
mounted by a small chapel named "The Chapel 
of the Seven Saints." An ancient popular guerz 
of the country celebrated there the Seven Sleepers 
of Ephesus. The Church has appropriated the 
title of the Chapel to the Seven Saints, either the 
seven who came over from Ireland or to a group 
of seven early Breton Saints. 

At the grotto of Abelard and Heloi'se young girls 
break a bit from one of the stones in order to be 
married within the year. 

Of the eighty Rocking Stones found in France, 
fifteen are in the C6tes-du-Nord, and there are a 
number in Morbihan and Finistere. 

Until 1880 these stones were held to be the work 
of man. To-day it is believed that they belong to 
geology by their origin and to archaeology by their 
use. Legends attribute the placing of these stones 
to fairies, monk-lore gives the credit to the Virgin 
and to Satan. These stones often serve as ordeals. 
Jealous husbands seek that near Concarneau in or- 
der to solve their doubts. There are traditions of 



CARNAC AND LEGENDS OF THE DRUIDS 163 

two fetes formerly celebrated at rocking stones, 
one on the first of May, the other at harvest time. 

Many of the large boulders along the coast are 
called Gargantua's pebbles, the giant having been 
annoyed by these stones getting into his shoes, and 
casting them aside here and there. 

Formerly stones in Brittany increased in size 
miraculously, but they have been exorcised, since 
when they no longer gain in proportion. As in 
other countries, certain rocks in Brittany sing; one 
on a high point named Men-Varia is often heard 
singing at sunrise.* I have visited the rock of 
Ploumanach which sings at sunset. The people 
say it is the sweet voice of Mary, protector of the 
mariner, praying for her Bretons. 

In the river at Scaer the Bretons search for the 
stones of the Cross. On every one the sacred sym- 
bol is found in relief. That the geologists call 
them Staurotites has not yet lessened their real 
value. Every household desiring to avoid colic, 
sorcery and mad dogs, possess one or more of these 
stones, which also serve as amulets when travelling. 

From Carnac to Locmariaquer we travel by pri- 
vate conveyance. Locmariaquer possesses a won- 
derful dolmen and interesting Roman remains, and 
not far off is the mound on which is a curious crom- 



*It is said that treasures are often found under the singing 
rocks, but we are told that they are Satanic in origin and disaster 
is sure to overtake him who ventures to dig to find these treasures. 
At Trogaredic, near Morlaix, there is gold in a certain place in 
the earth, but he who searches for it will fare ill in this world and 
the next 



164 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

lech. Alexander Dumas places the tragic death 
of his Porthos in the grotto of Locmariaquer. 

At the little inn one should not fail to order oys- 
ters, the specialty of the place. These our hostess 
allowed us to enjoy, sitting in the kitchen before 
the broad fireplace, thus being served directly from 
the coals where the broiling goes on at the hands 
of our hostess. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

LEGENDS 

FOUNTAINS share the popularity of stones in 
the legends. There is a famous one at Yffiniac near 
St. Brieuc, called the "Fountain of the Seven 
Saints." This is efficacious in cases of eczema. 
That of St. Malo in Brehand cures boils. The 
water of the fountain of St. Gueten is a specific 
for colic, and St. Blanche for skin eruptions (but 
the shirt must be dipped in the fountain and dried 
in the shade and prayers said during the drying, 
also an offering must not be omitted). St. Blaise 
is a specialist for toothache, Notre Dame de la 
Clarte for diseases of the eye and Notre Dame de 
Bon Repos for insomnia. The Virgin at Quintin 
cures sterility and idiots and epileptics are helped 
at the fountain of the St. Esprit at Pledeliac. For 
earache the Breton seeks Notre Dame de Lorette. 
St. Aubert cures hydrophobia and St. Antoine aids 
in finding lost objects. 

Besides the Saints and their fountains the Breton 
has three curative resources — the Midwife, the 
Bonesetter and the Sorcerer. 

165 



166 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

The midwife is actively engaged, there being — 
according to statistics — no Province in France in 
which so many large families are found. 

The bonesetter appears to have a method all his 
own, and his successes as well as his failures are 
evident. At Ploumanach the usual fee for a sim- 
ple fracture is one franc — for a double fracture 
two, and a complicated case is held to be worth 
the three francs demanded. 

When all other resources fail, there is the Sor- 
cerer, who is feared, respected, sought or avoided, 
according to circumstances. Many a Breton cure 
possesses a copy of the "Agrippa." But it is for- 
bidden his parishioners to own such an aid to 
knowledge. However, every Sorcerer in the Prov- 
ince has a copy. I have seen one, owned by M. 
Anatole Le Braz, given him by an old peasant. 
The book is black from its century of hiding in- 
side his grandfather's chimney, lest the cure should 
know of its existence. The formulas contained in 
this book and the herbs he gathers, as did the 
druids, with proper observation of the planetary 
movements, are great aids to the Sorcerer. Some 
of the remedies used by them, in the mountains 
of Arez, have been, it is said, transmitted orally 
from father to son, and are held to be traditional 
means of cure employed by the orates. There is 
excellent sense in this recipe: "To restore a 
fatigued horse shut him in the stable three days 
and give six sous to the Cure." 



LEGENDS 167 

To ease the sufferings of one possessed by the 
Loup Garou, repeat four times the syllable "at," 
twice the syllable "non" and four times "on all 
en an." 

In Brittany Sage and Sorcerer are often 
synonymous. People smile at the Breton Sorcer- 
ers, but in Paris we find them on the Rue Paradis, 
and in London in Bond Street. 

With the druids water and fire figure largely, as 
forces in the Substance of the Universe. As his 
ancestors lighted fires on the cairns at the Solstice, 
so the Bretons light bonfires on the mountains on 
the Eve of St. John's Day. And the priest now 
blesses and often lights the pile. Young people 
dance around these fires and leap across the embers 
for good luck, and a brand preserved from the fire 
of St. Jean brings a blessing to the house through 
the year. A most delightful description of this 
midsummer-night fete is given in the book: "Au 
Pays des Pardons." In fact one finds in this a 
perfect guide and inspiration as well, in journey- 
ing in this Country of Pilgrimages. 

Luzel publishes over twenty Sun legends. A 
few years ago the Patron or chief person of the 
Fete of the Solstice wore a rosette of green, blue 
and white ribbon, these colours, curiously, are those 
of the Welsh bards, druids and ovates. In some 
localities he was dressed entirely in these colors. 
They danced around the dolmen. Persons under 
sixteen years of age were not admitted to this fete, 



168 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

and once married their right to participate ended. 
The Patron of the preceding fete lost his position 
when another succeeded in seizing from him the 
tri-colored rosette, when he was proclaimed chief 
or Patron of the fete. The observance of the Fete 
of the Solstice lingers in the mountains, where the 
Keltic cpirit remains comparatively intact. The 
center of the Cult is near Plougasnou in Finistere, 
where the touching of the finger of St. John, treas- 
ured in the sacristy, joined to the use of the water 
of the fountain, cures the worst cases of disease of 
the eye. This fete has become spoiled to a degree, 
owing to its popularity, and I grieve to say that at 
the moment of the lighting of the bonfires, volleys 
of musketry accompany the ceremony. 

As for trees and plants, the oak holds its usual 
place in Breton traditions. A branch of the birch- 
tree is a signal of triumph, and the hazel-nut tree 
symbolizes defeat. The curious object — the mail 
benniguet — was made of the heart of the oak. 

The mistletoe figures in many of the legends. 
A panacea with the druids, it possesses (provided it 
grows upon the oak) great healing powers. An 
expatriated Breton finds the gul de chene "war- 
ranted to cure nervous complaints," at a large 
apothecary shop near the Hotel de Ville in Paris, 
at six francs the pound ; a branch of mistletoe car- 
ried on a railway train wards off accident. 



CHAPTER XXVII 
SAINTS AND FAIRIES 

In SPEAKING of the fountains we have mentioned 
a few names of the Patron Saints, not many of these 
are found in the Calendar of Rome. Brittany 
counts her Saints by hundreds, although those 
of Rome are likewise honoured — as if there 
couldn't be too many. Nor does Albert the Monk 
of Morlaix mention the half in his "Lives of the 
Saints of Brittany." 

M. Anatole Le Braz tells of a Saint — very popu- 
lar — called in Breton "a zantic coz" — "the little 
old Saint" — an old block of wood against which 
one has only to rub his head in order to obtain all 
that he desires. But there are obstacles, as the 
block is concealed in a rock which opens once in 
every eleven hundred years, between eleven o'clock 
and midnight! 

The name of St. Tu-pe-du does not figure in 
the Monk's book, but he is important among the 
Breton Saints. Another legend having one point 
in common with that of St. Tu-pe-du, very Keltic 

169 



170 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

and very lugubrious, is that of the Mael benniguet 
of Manne-Guen. "The Sacred Club of the White 
Mountain." On the side of the Mountain in the 
country near Poulder, is a chapel of the Virgin 
named Notre Dame de Mane-Guen. People say 
that formerly, old men tired of living went to the 
top of the mountain, and one of the druids who 
lived there disembarrassed him by striking his head 
with the mael benniguet. 

The Sacred Club of the druids, made of the 
heart of oak, later on took the form of a mallet of 
wood, afterwards of iron, lastly of a granite ball, 
half a yard in circumference. 

In certain chapels the mael benniguet is pre- 
served, usually concealed in an aperture of the 
wall of the sacristy. In case an aged person was 
suffering a slow and painful death, the sacristan 
entrusted this granite ball to some venerable friend 
of the dying — sometimes the parish priest has per- 
formed the office. It was placed on the head of 
the sufferer, a sacred formula was uttered and 
death came swiftly and painlessly. Thus Chris- 
tianity has sanctified the mael benniguet of druidic 
legend and preserved its benignant character, and 
the Mountain Mane-Guen is placed under the pro- 
tection of Notre Dame. 

This mountain is near Guidel at the mouth of the 
LaTta. It still preserves its ancient tradition (and 
for centuries the chapel of Mane-Guen treasured 
a mael-benniguet) and is still a place of pilgrim* 



SAINTS AND FAIRIES 171 

age, but — note the contrast! — to-day, young girls 
desirous of becoming more beautiful and attractive 
seek there the intercession of Our Lady of Mane- 
Guen! 

As we before mentioned, the peasants have al- 
ways loved their fairies, and did not easily believe 
them to be Pagan. Not that they were held to be 
quite Christian, as they could not be baptized. But 
they can enter a church, act as godmother, and as- 
sist at marriages. They are neither quite Christian 
nor quite Pagan, but rather spirits of angels con- 
demned to do penance on earth after which they 
will enter Paradise. Chapels have been built by 
fairies in a single night. Enormous crosses and 
stones have been transported and placed by them 
— always in the night. Also the fairies sometimes 
say a mass. The dolmen is called the "Church of 
the Fairies." 

Certain Norman historians indicate Brittany as 
the chief sojourn of the fairy. The soil has always 
been congenial to their existence. In the moun- 
tains of Arez the forests are filled with these good 
little folk. The bad fairy dwells in the grotto of 
the coast, which forms four-fifths of the boundary 
of our Province. There Morgan-la-Fee still prac- 
tises her enchantments. The inhabitants of Tre- 
guier often see this Breton siren, and Mary Mor- 
gan is well known on the shore of Finistere. 
These successors of ancient sea divinities figure in 
endless songs, and old tales. M. Sibellot has col- 



172 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

lected twenty stones of these fairies of the grotto. 

In the mountains of Arez it is wise to avoid cer- 
tain crossings of roadways, and certain fountains 
in forests, and especially certain dolmens where 
fairies dance their rounds. The people tell you 
that they have themselves heard that famous un- 
canny rondo — "Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi," and the 
others respond : "et Jeudi et Vendredi." If the 
passer-by venture to add: "et Samedil' he runs a 
fearful risk. A rag-gatherer passing near a dol- 
men one cold night in December, and hearing this 
singing couldn't resist adding the fatal word. He 
was immediately surrounded by these sprites of the 
night, was hurled into the clouds and landed in 
the moon, where he figures as the "Man" of that 
orb, and there he must remain until the spell is 
broken, i.e. — until another victim, led into the same 
imprudence shall replace him. 

I found a pretty local legend at Gourin in the 
Arez mountains, so buried was it in the hearts of 
the inhabitants of the parish that it had escaped 
even the folk-lorists. 

During a visit at the chateau of Gourin I no- 
ticed in the little cemetery of the ancient church a 
flat tombstone, quite new in appearance, resting on 
two pediments which were apparently very, very 
old. They explained that the former slab had be- 
come so worn by the feet of the little children 
whose mothers had brought them to the tomb, that 
the parish had been forced to replace it with the 



SAINTS AND FAIRIES 173 

new slab. My look of inquiry brought the full 
explanation. "Hundreds of years ago a certain 
Cure of the parish was greatly beloved by his peo- 
ple, and above all by the children, as he adored 
the little folk of his parish. Now this good priest 
had a weakness. When once he had fallen asleep, 
after his day of hard work, it was with difficulty 
that he could rouse himself. Once in the middle 
of the night some one knocked at his door, asking 
him to hasten to baptize a newly born infant about 
to die. The Cure promised to come at once — but 
alas! he failed to rouse himself — relaxed into sleep. 
The child died. His grief over the loss of a soul 
through his neglect was too much to be borne. He 
thought himself unworthy of his sacred office — and 
one night he left his parish — walked to the nearest 
seaport and embarked for Ireland. Just be- 
fore landing he found that in his haste he had 
brought with him the key of the Sacristy. This he 
threw into the sea, thus severing the last link 
which bound him to his parish. He worked faith- 
fully among the poor and suffering, devoting him- 
self especially to little children, and came to be 
looked upon in the country of his adoption as little 
less than a saint. After many years, as he was sup- 
ping one day at a little inn on the seacoast, inside 
the fish which was served to him he found the key 
of the Sacristy. He interpreted the miracle thus: 
this his period of penance was finished, and he was 
to return to his parish. Arriving there, his people 



174 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

were overjoyed at sight of their beloved Cure, 
whose absence they had never ceased to mourn — 
and he lived to a very old age, and at his death was 
buried in the parish cemetery. He had become 
such a saint that miracles were wrought at his 
tomb. If an infant was unable from weakness to 
walk at the usual time, the mother brought it to 
this tomb and, marching the little feet back and 
forth on the slab of the stone, the child's strength 
was secured. Thus the stone became worn and 
the grooves grew so deep that a new one was made 
to replace it. I give this as a typical local legend 
— believed in absolutely by the people. And at 
the same time not far from being historically true. 
For mostly legends are history — history veiled by 
the myth, it is true — but still history. 

There are many Legends of Love — beauties per- 
secuted, etc. 

Luzel associates this class with the Psyche myth 
and thus analyzes it: "Generally a condition at 
first obscure or unhappy of the heroine followed 
by a better condition as the result of some act of 
devotion, filial or conjugal — a fall or misfortune 
follows, due often to curiosity — expiatory tests, re- 
demption and definite reunion of hero and hero- 
ine." Luzel cites six examples. Other legends of 
love are found in which several but not all the con- 
ditions named by Luzel occur. 

There are two heroines of legends of this class, 
named Azenor — "Azenor la Pale," sacrificed by a 



SAINTS AND FAIRIES 175 

marriage forced upon her from motives of ambi- 
tion on the part of her parents. And "Queen Aze- 
nor de la Tour d'Armor." This legend dates from 
the sixth century. Azenor, daughter of the King 
of Leon, is married by the Bishop of Ys to a prince 
of a neighbouring country. That the marriage 
seemed suitable in one respect at least, may be in- 
ferred from the King's words in giving his consent : 
"He is tall and handsome they say, and handsome 
and tall is my daughter." She goes with her hus- 
band to his castle. Before a year has passed, the 
mother-in-law, the villain of the play — jealous of 
the beauty and influence of the young wife, ac- 
cuses her falsely to her husband, who promptly 
ordered her to be burned. "Queen Azenor that 
day was led to the funeral pile, as innocent as a 
lamb, in white robes, her feet bare, her fair hair 
flowing over her shoulders. And everybody sob- 
bing, great and small, as she passed by. And 
everybody saying: 'It is a crime, it is a two-fold 
crime to burn a woman about to give birth to a 
child.' " But a miracle occurs. The fire refuses 
to burn. "Blow, joyous firemen, blow, that the fire 
may burn red and strong. Let us blow our best 
that the fire may burn red and strong. 'Twas in 
vain they blew. They blew themselves breathless 
in vain. The fire would not kindle beneath her." 
Then she is ordered to be drowned and is again 
preserved through a miracle. Scene fifth begins 
thus: "What hast thou seen on the sea, O Sailor? 



176 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

— A boat without oars or sail. And at the stern, 
for pilot, an angel. An angel standing with wings 
outspread. — And what hast thou seen on the Sea, 
O Sailor? — I saw, my lord, far out at sea, a boat, 
and in this boat a woman with her child, her new- 
born child hanging on her white breast, like a dove 
on the edge of a sea shell. She sang to him in a 
voice so sweet: 'Sleep, sleep, my baby, sleep. 
Sleep, sleep, my poor little one,' " etc. Of course, 
the plot is unearthed as the mother-in-law dies, 
confessing her crime, and the usual serpents, so oft- 
recurring in Breton tales, crawl from her lying 
lips, and hissing, strangle her. The husband seeks 
Azenor over land and sea and after seven years 
finds her in Great Britain. 

In all the instances named, the persecuted hero- 
ine is beautiful, pale, has golden hair, is good, pa- 
tient, and, in every instance, forgives her enemies. 

No sentiment is so strong with the Breton as 
their affection and veneration for the dead. With 
that tenacity of will and memory peculiar to the 
Kelt, the Breton holds to the old traditions. He 
treasures the legends which serve to keep alive this 
cult for the dead, which he inherited from the 
druids and which Christianity maintains. The pe- 
culiar moral atmosphere of Brittany favors this 
result. With these people the veil which sepa- 
rates the real from the marvellous is very slight. 
As already remarked, the true Breton is always in 
a state of mind where an explanation of natural 



SAINTS AND FAIRIES 177 

events is an interpretation of the miraculous. The 
dead live intimately with the living. 

M. Marillier writes: "In Paris it is the Cult of 
the Tomb; in Brittany it is the Cult of the Dead." 
For the Breton kneels at any tomb he encounters, 
without knowing even the name of him for whom 
he utters the prayer. M. Anatole Le Braz in his 
book, "La Legende de la Mort," has made this es- 
pecial class of folk-lore familiar to us. 

The Turkish proverb: "There are fewer things 
visible than invisible," applies to the Breton. In- 
visible to the outside world, but he "has the power" 
as they say in designating any one especially gifted 
in "seeing." 

"Ankou" (Death) is abroad on the night of 
Toussaint and the creaking of his chariot wheels 
is heard by the Breton even though he be tucked 
away in his armoire bedstead, the sliding doors 
drawn tightly and his head well under the blan- 
kets. On that night processions of the dead are 
passing through fields and forests. A modest re- 
past of Crepe and cider — the nectar and ambrosia 
of Brittany — is prepared in every household before 
retiring, in case any hungry ghost should visit the 
familiar hearthstone. Lugubrious songs of the 
Dead are sung from door to door. Among the* 
Breton legends mentioned, many were common to 
other peoples. The cricket brings good fortune. 
They say: "Where the cricket sings, the good God 
lives." A horseshoe concealed in the bed of a 



178 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

rheumatic serves to lessen the pain of the occupant. 
In Lower Brittany when a boy is born in the house- 
hold they tie a bit of red cloth around the bee-hive. 
On wedding days the hives are decorated with rib- 
bons. When a death occurs they are draped in 
black. If the mother of the family dies, the badge 
remains for six months. On Good Friday a small 
cross of wax, blessed by the priest, is placed on the 
hive. Melusina, although in origin a French 
fairy, sometimes figures in Breton folk-lore. Cin- 
derella, under another name, is often the heroine 
of Breton fairy tales. In the Breton version, "The 
Wife of the Grey Wolf," the story is more charm- 
ing than in the more familiar form. 

Poor dear Brittany! Her forests, her moun- 
tains and her seas are filled with Souls wandering 
hither and thither, weeping and groaning. They 
pass along the silent roadways everywhere. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

PLOERMEL, THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY, AND 
JOSSELIN 

AND now we are to make a little detour — quite 
worth the trouble — in order to visit Ploermel — a 
matter of three or four hours' travel by rail. On 
the way we pass the tower of Elven, made familiar 
to us from the pages of Octave Feuillet's "Ro- 
mance of a Poor Young Man." It is an imposing 
ruin of the fortress of Largouet and furnishes a 
good example of the medieval donjon. 

As we have said — every town in Brittany has its 
legends. Those most popular in Ploermel are the 
Legend of St. Armel and the Battle of the Thirty. 
Meyerbeer's Opera, "Le Pardon de Ploermel," 
finds the mise-en-scene of its libretto in this old 
town and the "Shadow Dance of Dinorah" was 
suggested by the dance of the Breton maidens at the 
parish fetes — the Pardons. It is a singular fact 
that Ploermel happens to be almost the only town 
in Brittany at which no Pardons occur — a fact of 
which Meyerbeer's librettist was apparently igno- 
rant. 

179 



180 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

The church named for the patron of the town, 
St. Armel (Plou, Breton for people — the people 
of Armel), is of the sixteenth century. The sculp- 
ture is fine, the windows, eight in number, are ex- 
ceptionally beautiful and are the pride of the faith- 
ful of Ploermel. Many of the sculptures repre- 
sent scenes in the life of Christ, but certain bizarre 
figures suggest the jokes of Rabelais — among these 
are the sow playing bagpipes, a cobbler sewing up 
his wife's mouth and a woman seizing her hus- 
band's bonnet. Similar fantastic sculptures exist 
on the outer walls of the Cathedral of Chaztres. 
These sculptures are preserved from the more 
ancient church of Ploermel and are doubtless coin- 
cident in their inspiration with the spirit which 
produced the "Danse Macabre" and similar ex- 
amples — episodes of the Middle Ages. 

Our next objective point is Josselin. Thither we 
travel by private conveyance. Half-way between 
Ploermel and Josselin occurred an event, the rec- 
ord of which furnishes — to quote M. Petit de Jul- 
leville of the Sorbonne — the "most brilliant page 
in French History." This came to pass on March 
27, 1350, during the One Hundred Years war, at 
a moment when the chief struggle was between 
England and Brittany. Bembro (Froissart's bad 
spelling for Pembroke), had been appointed by 
Edward III, Governor of Ploermel, and Beauma- 
noir (Breton) was Governor of Josselin. It had 
been agreed to end a certain quarrel — a side issue, 



PLOERMEL, THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 1S1 

by choosing thirty English and thirty Bretons, who 
should settle the question by arms. The place 
chosen for the battle was the famous oak of Mi- 
voie, exactly half-way between Josselin and Ploer- 
mel. Each Captain chose his thirty men. When 
the day arrived chiefs and champions first heard 
mass, then repaired to the rendezvous. All the 
nobility of the country came to witness the spec- 
tacle. Each party's Chief made the usual ha- 
rangue, and the battle commenced. Beaumanoir 
is wounded. He asks for water. "Drink thy own 
blood," a Breton voice shouted in reply, and "bois 
ton sang" remained the war-cry of the Beauman- 
oirs thereafter. Even Froissart, although pen- 
sioned by the King of England, and therefore pos- 
sibly biased in his judgment, admits the victory of 
the Bretons. The glory of this battle was, how- 
ever, for a long time disputed by careful historians, 
but the question has now been settled by two strong 
testimonies — first the contemporaneous poem dis- 
covered lately at the Bibliotheque Nationale, and 
second the chapter of Froissart restored by its edi- 
tor, M. Buchon. Thus, celebrated by poets, sung 
by minstrels, wrought in tapestries, the Battle of 
the Thirty became so famous that for one hundred 
years men were wont to say, in speaking of great 
battles: "They fought like the Battle of the 
Thirty." 

We reach Mivoie after an hour's drive. After 
the verdure and beauty of Ploermel, the place 



1 82 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

seems barren. Everywhere grows the bunches of 
wild broom, just as when five and one-half cen- 
turies ago, each Breton of the Thirty gathered a 
spray for his helmet before going into the battle. 
The obelisk which marks the spot is a modest and 
ugly affair of granite, placed in the center of a star 
planted with pines and cypresses. Upon one side 
of the shaft are engraven the names of the Thirty 
Breton warriors. 

At Josselin one finds much to enjoy. The cha- 
teau has been restored without sacrificing its char- 
acter. The Duke de Rohan is its present hospit- 
able occupant. Visitors are allowed to see the 
chateau on certain days, usually on Monday. The 
church of itself is worth making the journey to see. 
It is of the thirteenth century. There we find the 
splendid tomb of the great Oliver Clisson and 
Margaret Rohan, his wife, represented in marble, 
lying side by side, each pair of hands devoutly 
joined, the great Constable in coat of mail, at his 
feet a lion, at Margaret's feet a greyhound with 
her young. The ancient glass of the windows is 
rare and beautiful. This church, Notre Dame du 
Roncier, was famous through centuries for the 
miracles wrought at the Shrine of the miraculous 
Virgin — a black Virgin, was found under a black- 
berry bush in a field, and upon this spot the church 
was built. Since when, the town has built itself 
about the church. Pilgrims came from remote 
parts of France to intercede and invoke, and votive 



PLOERMEL, THE BATTLE OF THE THIRTY 183 

offerings on the part of the cured were many and 
rich. I have read a book filled with astonishing 
statements, all duly verified. Perhaps the most 
curious of these is the account of a singular mani- 
festation, the story of which has come to be a 
legend — The Legend of the Barking Women of 
Josselin. In a parish near Josselin, a long time 
ago, some women were washing their linen at a 
fountain, when a poor woman — a beggar — passed 
by, asking alms. Now these women were hard of 
heart, and not given to deeds of charity: "Go your 
way," they said to her, severely, and as the stranger 
insisted, they sent their dogs, barking at her, to 
drive her away. Now this beggar was the Virgin 
Mary. "Heartless women," she cried, suddenly 
appearing radiant as they gazed at her, "you will 
be severely punished for your crime. Since you 
do not know how to conduct yourselves as Chris- 
tians, you and your children after you shall bark 
like these dogs that you have set upon me." 

Since when (until several years ago when M. 
Anatole Le Braz and M. Charles Le Goffic got a 
law passed interdicting the custom) on the fete- 
day of the Virgin there came people, barking like 
dogs and suffering great agony, to invoke the aid 
of Mary, at whose shrine they were cured of their 
strange malady. Sometimes men have been the 
victims of the malediction. 

It would be a pity not to improve the opportun- 
ity of visiting the Forest of Paimpont, the Broce- 



184 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

liande of the Arthurian Tales. This may be done 
by driving from Ploermel about fifteen miles, to 
Plelan, in itself worth a visit — a little beyond 
Plelan is the town of Paimpont, situated in the 
forest. In this forest Merlin the Enchanter, him- 
self under the spell of the Enchantress Vivian, lies 
imprisoned under a rock. So the Breton bards af- 
firm (and I never doubt what the bards tell me!) 
Sometimes the traveller in Brittany almost imag- 
ines himself under a spell — so subtle is the in- 
fluence of the legendary atmosphere in which the 
Breton exists. 



CHAPTER XXIX 

LE CROISIC, BATZ AND GUERANDE 

BUT we must now return to Ploermel, where we 
take train southward for the purpose of visiting a 
cluster of towns on the seacoast — Le Croisic, Batz 
and Guerande. The last-named was the ancient 
Capital of Brittany, and it has preserved its feudal 
aspect as only two other towns of France have 
done, Vitre, which we have visited, and Avignon 
in Provence. No more beautiful picture of an 
ancient household, personages and customs of a 
Breton town can be found than that given by Bal- 
zac in his "Beatrix," in which Guerande furnishes 
the mise-en-scene. 

Guerande in its position is the summit of a tri- 
angle, at the other angle of which are Batz and 
Le Croisic, both places no less curious and inter- 
esting. Guerande is still surrounded by its ancient 
walls, its battlements are entire, its loop-holes even 
are perfect. The streets are as they were four 
hundred years ago, although now almost deserted. 

185 



i86 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Placed in this remote corner of the Continent, Gue- 
rande leads nowhere and no one goes to Guerande. 
It is silent, melancholy and beautiful — proud of 
former importance, however, for it was not only 
the Capital of Brittany, but the great Du Guesclins 
were the ancient lords of the Castle and the do- 
main. And in our travels in Brittany one may find 
the seemingly identical Guenics, the old Baron, 
Mademoiselle Zephirine, Calyste and Gasselin, 
and all the other types which Balzac, in his novel, 
has so admirably, portrayed. To poet, artist or 
archaeologist, Guerande is a place after his own 
heart. 

It is a delightful drive from Guerande to Batz 
— along the shore — rocks and ocean at our left — 
at our right the salt marshes. We watch the men 
of Batz in their white costumes dipping the salt 
from the vats. The costumes of the women are 
renowned for their elaborateness, and no Breton 
town enters into competition with It in this regard. 

The third of this triangular group of towns is 
Le Croisic. It might be described as a few streets 
flung out upon a jagged rocky point. But let us 
take Robert Browning's more graphic description: 
"Croisic, the spit of sandy rock which juts spite- 
fully northward, bears nor tree nor shrub to tempt 
the ocean ... all stub of rock and stretch of sand, 
the land's last strife to rescue a poor remnant for 
dear life." Browning has made this trio of Breton 
towns unforgettable. Guerande — a veritable bit 



LE CROISIC, BATZ AND GUERANDE 187 

of Italian softness, balmy air, tender sky, fruitful, 
verdant with perfume of violet and spreading 
green of figtrees. Batz and its picturesque men 
and women and Croisic with its "Two Poets," 
whom he has rescued from oblivion, through his 
satire, not in his best style, it is true, but in better 
verses than either of the "Two" had dreamed of in 
his day. Especially has Robert Browning made 
Croisic unforgettable — not because he lived there, 
for the simple folk do not dream what poet dwelt 
among them those summers, but chiefly because 
"Herve Riel," the "Croisickese," has been so 
beautifully framed in one of his finest poems. This 
rocky coast of Croisic is a fit training-school for 
such sailors as our hero of "St. Malo." We 
walked along the shore among the fisher-folk and 
met our Herve Riel more than once. He looks 
to-day to be of the same valiant stuff as when he 
"up-stood, out-stepped, in-struck," to save the 
French fleet on that thirty-first of May, 1692, at St. 
Malo on the Ranee. The type abounds on this 
rocky shore of Croisic: "Not a symptom of sur- 
prise, — in the frank blue Breton eyes," exactly de- 
scribes the Herve Riel we met in Croisic. Nor is 
the "Belle Aurore" lacking. We saw — we believe 
we saw — Herve Riel and his "Belle Aurore" and 
flocks of little Herve Riels and Belle Aurores on 
a September morning in 1896. 

But for Robert Browning's poem, the hero of 
Croisic would not have been to-day rehabilitated. 



188 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

When the English poet in his "Herv6 Riel" 
wrote : 

"Name and deed alike are lost: 
Not a pillar nor a post 
In his Croisic keeps alive the feat as it befell;" 

he little dreamed that it was this very poem that 
would serve to "keep alive the feat"; and that a 
beautiful statue would stand as "pillar" or "post." 

During two centuries the people of le Croisic 
had "heard tell" of a brave deed of a mariner of 
their coast. Like all legends, the story passed from 
lip to lip — from one generation to another — an old 
tale retold by some mariner to pass the time on 
nights of watching for a belated vessel. But 
legends are history — veiled by the myth, it is true 
— and to-day the legend of Croisic, the legend of 
Herve Riel — is history, illustrated by the fete and 
to be perpetuated by the statue. 

After the death of his wife, Robert Browning 
sought solitude. Lower Brittany, which until 
then had had no associations with his life, offered 
the conditions desired, and he spent several sum- 
mers at Pornic and Saint-Marie. The summer 
of 1866 found him at Le Croisic. Here the poet 
lived during the summers of 1866 and '67, and 
here the poem "Herve Riel" was written. 

Little knew the folk of Croisic what manner of 
man was in their midst those summers "takin* 



LE CROISIC, BATZ AND GUERANDE 189 

notes !" In fact the name of Robert Browning was 
unknown to Croisic until recently. Now, how- 
ever, it has become a household word. The poem 
"Herve Riel," translated into French and recited 
by an artist from the Theatre Frangais, at the 
inauguration of the statue, will never be for- 
gotten in old Croisic town. Robert Browning's 
poem, "Herve Riel," furnished the inspiration 
which resulted in the placing and inauguration of 
the statue of the hero of Croisic, which stands on 
the shores of his native town, and which has made 
known to his compatriots what a brave deed was 
done by one of them. How can such an event be 
other than inspiring to those who know the story 
which the poem has embodied and celebrated? 

One day in Paris, at the Salon of 1910, the at- 
tention of M. Port was attracted by the work of a 
young sculptor, Rene Paris. The statue bore for 
title: "A Pilot Among Rocks." He found that 
the model who had posed for the statue was a sailor 
of Croisic. The coincidence was suggestive, and 
as the model chanced to be a nephew of the Mayor 
of Croisic, M. Port thought the moment propi- 
tious, and seized the opportunity. He wrote to the 
Mayor, proposing the placing of the Statue at 
Croisic. Meantime the Under Secretary of State 
for Fine Arts offered his aid, and through his 
influence the Municipal Council of Paris voted 
the necessary expenses, and the bronze was or- 
dered. Thus it came about that without opening 



i 9 o THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

a subscription, the statue awaited its place in le 
Croisic. The Municipal Council of le Croisic 
bought the site and voted money for the Inaugural 
Fete. At Croisic it was a Hero to be honoured 
instead of a saint — though, of course, many a saint 
has been a hero in his day — and the ovation was 
profane, for no mass was said in the parish church, 
but priests, bourgoisie and fisherfolk, men of let- 
ters from Paris, officers of the marine — "all sorts 
and conditions" gathered about the statue erected 
in honour of a coasting pilot of Croisic, born two 
hundred and fifty years ago; and thus it came to 
pass that le Croisic recognized her hero. 

After the fourteenth century the history of Croi- 
sic was the history of Brittany. The oldest monu- 
ment of Croisic is the Pierre Longue — the (so 
called) druidic stone. The chapel of St. Goustan 
comes next, dating from six hundred and fifty. It 
has its popular legend — that of St. Gousten — who, 
overtaken by a storm, landed at Croisic, and, over- 
come by fatigue, slept lying on a rock on the 
shore. The imprint of the saint is still visible on 
the rock — so the story must be true! 

On the coast we find Pornic — "just where the 
sea and the Loire unite," Browning's poem, 
"Golden Hair," has it. This little town is at pres- 
ent popular as a summer resort. But the legend 
and its setting, as embodied in the poem, alone 
make Pornic interesting to-day. The ancient 
church, beneath the altar of which the "beautiful 



LE CROISIC, BATZ AND GUERANDE 191 

girl too white" was buried, has vanished, and an 
ugly modern structure replaces it. 

A mile from Pornic we find the bit of coast and 
sea and house and fig-tree of the poem: "James 
Lee's Wife." The Pornic legend embodied in the 
poem "Golden Hair" is redolent of the peculiar 
Breton flavor. The unsuspected sin of avarice 
bears its sinister fruit, springing from the golden 
hair coiled "aye" down to her breasts. 



CHAPTER XXX 

NANTES AND ANNE OF BRITTANY 

A VERY agreeable way of reaching Nantes, 
which brings us into the Department of the Loire 
Inferieure, and is our next stopping place — is to 
sail up the river Loire. Nantes has a rich and va- 
ried history. For its early records we must go to 
Caesar and Tacitus. Its ecclesiastical history in- 
cludes a list of great names, as do its civil records. 
Early Kings of Brittany figure among these. To- 
day Nantes is strongly commercial in its atmos- 
phere, and one is forced to search out the few 
ancient landmarks, so hemmed in are they with 
handsome modern buildings. 

The house from which was issued the famous 
Edict of Nantes in 1598, still exists and may be 
visited. 

In the Cathedral of Nantes, the traveller pauses 
to admire a beautiful tomb in black and white 
marble — a superb work from the hand of a Breton 
sculptor too little known — one of the few happy 
artists who have left only masterpieces to mark his 

192 









ANNE OF BRITTANY 
From a commemorative medal by Jehan de Paris made in 14 ()t ) when Anne. 
widow of Charles VIII. married Louis XII 



NANTES AND ANNE OF BRITTANY 193 

passage through the latter half of the fifteenth cen- 
tury — Michel Colomb, as sculptor, will not easily 
be forgotten by anyone who has travelled through 
Brittany. 

Within this beautiful tomb rest the ashes of 
Francis II, last of Brittany's dukes. And in a cas- 
ket of gold, of rich workmanship, in the year 15 14, 
was placed the heart of a woman — daughter of 
Francis II — Anne, the last Duchess of Brittany, 
and twice Queen of France. Among the sepul- 
chers of St. Denis we find her tomb beside those 
of her two royal husbands — Charles VIII and 
Louis XII. But she begged that her heart might 
be sent to her own Bretons — a heart ever loyal to 
her Province. 

Anne of Brittany, deprived of her mother in her 
infancy, shared the confidence of her father, and 
generally accompanied him upon his various expe- 
ditions. The descriptions of historians and the 
portrait in her book of hours preserved in the 
Bibliotheque Nationale show her to have been a 
person of great charm. The record of the year 
following the death of her father (Anne was then 
fourteen) is full of romance. Although her duchy 
was threatened, Anne was still the richest and most 
powerful heiress on the continent. Any prince to 
whom she should bring Brittany as her dower was 
sure to hold the balance of power in Europe. The 
Prince of Orange was one of her many royal suit- 
ors, but unfortunately for his suit, he had solicited 



i 9 4 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

the interference of the Pope. When Anne learned 
this she protested publicly, declaring that she de- 
tested him. And when she discovered the plans 
laid for carrying her off in spite of herself, she 
galloped across Brittany on horseback, followed 
by guardians, councillors and governess, and, 
reaching Nantes, asked for admission. But the 
Ambassador of the Prince of Orange had been 
there in advance, and the gates of the city were 
closed to her. In fact the Marshal of Nantes 
came outside the gates to capture her. But if they 
imagined they were dealing with a child, they 
found themselves repulsed by a heroine. "A Mot, 
Dunois" she shouted to her only defender, the 
faithful Chancellor, and, springing to the saddle 
behind him, off they gallopped to a place of safety. 
After passing two weeks in the fields, she still pro- 
tested that she would bury herself in a cloister 
rather than marry this insistent Prince. And then, 
called by her faithful subjects at Rennes, she made 
her ducal entrance in that city and took the oath 
before Parliament as her predecessors had done. 

Finally the young King of France resolved to 
marry Anne himself, and she, seeing no other way 
out politically for Brittany, gave him her hand. 
Nature had refused Charles VIII nearly every 
advantage of mind and body. He was at that time 
twenty years of age, Anne was fifteen. 

A bit of sentiment lingered in Anne's heart. The 
Duke of Orleans, of all the pretenders, had been 



NANTES AND ANNE OF BRITTANY 195 

the one most favored by her. That visit at the 
Chateau of Nantes had left a romantic interest in 
the hearts of both Anne and Louis. At this mo- 
ment, however, he was submissive to his cousin, 
and also grateful, for Charles had rescued him 
from the iron cage of Bourges in spite of the Re- 
gent of France. Hence Louis had come in person 
to adjure all hope for himself, and to beg Anne to 
give herself to his royal cousin. 

Fifteen days later the royal troops departed from 
Brittany and Anne left Rennes to join the King 
at Langeais on the Loire. 

With fifteen days in which to arrange a royal 
trousseau — it is interesting to note, quoting pre- 
cisely from our Charlotte d' Albert, that the "Duch- 
ess Anne came to the castle attended by a great 
train of Breton lords and ladies, and she brought 
rich store of clothing and of household plenishing. 
Most magnificent of all her robes was her wedding 
gown of cloth of gold of more than ten thousand 
pounds in value, and its train and her mantle were 
bordered with an hundred and sixty skins of er- 
mine." 

The reign of Queen Anne was worthy and noble. 
She was submissive to her husband. She protected 
her beloved Bretons, opening high careers and the 
best positions in the court and army to her com- 
patriots. She held her court to the most rigid 
rules of propriety and the most scrupulous eti- 
quette. She had much to do to close the lips of 



196 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

calumny and perhaps to silence her own heart — 
who knows? And the young, brilliant and pas- 
sionate Louis of Orleans, when an indiscreet ex- 
pression of regard for Anne escaped him, found 
himself banished from court by his queen. Queen 
Anne gave two daughters to France — Claude and 
Renee. All Brittany feted these events. 

Six years after the marriage Charles died and 
Louis became King. Anne had returned to Brit- 
tany at the death of Charles VIII. After four 
months our widow of twenty-one accepts the pro- 
posal of Louis XII, and again mounts the throne 
of France. 

And now we note a change in the role of Anne 
of Brittany. No longer a merely submissive and 
reserved wife, she became a veritable sovereign 
and a consummate diplomat. She had a large 
share in the governing of France, as of Brittany. 
She was the first Queen of France to establish the, 
ladies court and she founded an Order of Chivalry 
for women, based on moral worth. She had a 
bodyguard — mostly Bretons, who attended her 
wherever she went — always waiting her orders on 
the little terrace at Blois, which we see to-day in 
visiting this chateau on the Loire. It still bears 
the name Anne gave it: — "My Bretons' Perch." 
The King treated her with the greatest honour and 
respect. In private he called her "ma petite 
Brette." Anne is perhaps the only Queen of 
France who has known how to hold to the last the 



NANTES AND ANNE OF BRITTANY 197 

love of her husband. He wrote long verses to her,, 
in Latin, when he was past fifty. To be sure, they 
were composed by his secretary! Anne replied to 
them in the same language, the replies being com- 
posed by herself. Men of letters and artists found 
in her appreciation and patronage. Anne's taste 
for arts, poetry and ancient literature is a well- 
established fact. She knew her Greek as well as 
she knew her Latin. It was, in fact, she who was 
preparing for the Renaissance of Arts and Letters 
which was to immortalize her son-in-law, Fran- 
cis I. Her court was a school of virtues, a triumph 
of politics and an Academy of Arts and Belles Let- 
tres. It is said that even the little Renee — worthy 
daughter of her mother — discoursed so loftily of 
astronomy as to astonish the court. 

On the ninth of January, 15 14, at the age of 
thirty-seven, Queen Anne died and her body was 
laid in the tomb beside the place reserved for 
Louis XII. The heart of their Duchess was re- 
ceived by the Bretons, at Nantes, with great solem- 
nity and pomp. The Bretons, not to be outdone by 
France, who had lighted four thousand candles at 
Notre Dame, at the funeral of their Queen, lighted 
five thousand in the Cathedral at Nantes in honour 
of their Duchess. 

The adherence of Queen Anne to the customs 
and costumes of her Province has furnished the 
material for many a legend. One of these has it 
that she mounted the throne of France in wooden 



198 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

shoes and we have spoken of the famous and popu- 
lar rondo, which we always sing at the Breton 
banquets and fetes, the same as sung by old Marc'- 
harit, entitled: "The Sabots of Anne of Brittany," 
beginning: "C'etait Anne de Bretagne, avec ses 
sabots" and each refrain: "Vivent les sabots de 
bois." 



CHAPTER XXXI 

CLISSON, THE GROTTO OF ABELARD AND THE CASTLE 
OF TIFFAUGES 

FROM Nantes to Clisson it is only an hour by 
rail, and it is worth a much longer journey to visit 
the ruins of this fine example of a medieval castle 
of the first order. This was the domain of the 
Lords of the House of Clisson, another of whose 
castles we saw at Josselin, for more than a single 
castle was needed to satisfy a Breton lord in olden 
times. Situated upon a high rocky point overlook- 
ing the country about, its walls twelve feet in thick- 
ness, the towers and battlements adapted to the 
fierce conflicts of the middle age, this castle of 
Clisson recalls strongly the feudal history of Brit- 
tany. 

Almost within sight, as we stand on the parapet, 
is the grotto, sacred to the souvenirs of the lovers, 
whose tomb at Pere La Chaise is the shrine sought 
by all the world who loves a lover. On the route 
from Nantes to Clisson we had passed Le Palet, a 
little hamlet where, in 1079, the most subtle dialec- 

199 



200 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

tician of his time — Abelard — was born. When the 
lovers, in the early period of their troubles, sought 
absolute solitude, where could it be found more 
complete than in this wild and desolate Morbihan? 
Hither they fled from Paris. Here their child was 
born. As we sat near this grotto in the twilight of 
an evening in June, and recalled the story which 
furnishes the most romantic page in the annals of 
the sons of Brittany, the gloomy shadows of the 
forest and the singing of the nightingales in the 
branches overhead, seemed a fit setting for the 
souvenirs of the story of Abelard and Heloise. 

In a solitary spot on the shore of the Gulf of 
Morbihan we find the ruins of the Abbey of St. 
Gildas, which are well worth visiting. Here Abe- 
lard passed a few unhappy years, persecuted by the 
monks of that order. To-day his spectre seems to 
be wandering among the weird rocks and grottos 
of this solitary spot. 

Each period of the history of Morbihan — the 
Roman, the Medieval and the Revolutionary, has 
been vigorous and dramatic in its manifestation. 
And the historic personages of this portion of Brit- 
tany are of a character which seems fitted to the 
stern and gloomy aspect of its history, as well as its 
topography. 

Vannes — chief city and capital of Morbihan — 
has its two distinct divisions, the ancient and the 
less ancient — for no part of it is modern. The for- 
mer is still surrounded with its ancient walls and is 



CLISSON, THE GROTTO OF ABELARD 201 

dominated by the Cathedral. The streets are nar- 
row and crooked. 

Only one place remains for us to visit together. 
It offers a rather somber end of our little journeys. 
For we shall find this last chateau, which we are 
about to visit, presenting a strong contrast to the 
cheerful, hospitable garden, avenues and entrance 
to that first chateau which we travelled together 
to Vitre to see the Chateau Les Rochers — per- 
vaded with the graceful and charming atmosphere 
of Madame de Sevigne. 

An hour of railway travel brings us from Clis- 
son to Tiffauges — the. most important of the Blue- 
beard castles. Of the many Bluebeard legends 
Brittany furnishes three. First the Legend of the 
Count of Comorre of the country of Treguier A of 
an unenviable reputation respecting his wives, of 
whom he had four in suspiciously rapid succes- 
sion, all four disappearing mysteriously. Second, 
the legend which the French poet, Leconte de 
Lisle, has so beautifully framed in one of his 
poems to be found in the collection entitled: 
"Poemes Babares." Lastly, the Legend of Gilles 
de Rais. Among the bravest generals who fought 
with Charles VII and Jeanne d'Arc for his coun- 
try was Gilles de Rais, Marshal of France and 
Lieutenant-Governor of Brittany — one of the 
greatest soldiers of the kingdom — allied to royal 
and ducal families. He was born in 1404, and be- 
came lord of many castles and parishes. At the 



202 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

age of twenty-four he was versed in letters, 
science and religion. After having borne his 
sword with honour in the wars he gave himself up 
to the pursuit of pleasure, and became an adept 
in that monomania of the Middle Ages — sorcery. 
His establishments were regal. He supported a 
guard of two hundred knights, a complete com- 
pany of comedians, a chapel of thirty monks, a boy 
choir and musicians, a horde of servants who were 
fed and clothed like the servants of princes, and 
who followed him on horseback wherever he went. 
He held open house and his table abounded in 
costliest food and wines. His chapels were en- 
riched with ornaments, cloth of gold and silver, 
censors, candelabra, crosses and cups of gold, and 
an organ which he carried with him everywhere. 
His comedians played mysteries and also love 
pieces, called at that time Moresques. The habit- 
ual scenes of the revels of this Breton lord were 
near Nantes, also at Vannes, at the castle of Chan- 
toce, but above all at TifTauges. Finally, after 
having sold and squandered the greater part of his 
lands, Gilles de Rais undertook to make gold in 
order to satisfy his increasing passions, and threw 
himself into the depths of alchemy and sorcery. 
He sought out in Germany, Italy and elsewhere in 
Europe those engaged in this pursuit. In the 
gloomy subterranean passages of the Castle of Tif- 
fauges, assassination mingled with the orgies. We 
see to-day the chapel in which the Black Mass took 



CLISSON, THE GROTTO OF ABELARD 203 

place during these orgies. With his own hands 
he strangled young children, and crowned his 
diablerie, assisted by his chaplains and valets, with 
sacrilegious processions and infamous ceremonies. 
He studied the refinements of cruelty. An old 
woman, veiled in black, hunted in the fields and 
forests of the neighbourhood little shepherdesses 
and enticed them to the fatal castle, after which 
they were never seen again. The inhabitants be- 
lieved they were carried off by fairies. The oub- 
liettes of Tiffauges kept their victims and their 
secrets for years. But there came a time when 
questions were asked — terrible cries had been 
heard at night, and finally suspicion was aroused 
and complaints made. The matter was brought 
before the Bishop of Nantes. Investigations 
brought to light the skeletons of one hundred and 
forty children in the subterranean vaults of Tif- 
fauges alone. The Marshal, when questioned, re- 
fused at first to reply — but the threat of torture 
brought from him confessions enough to hang 
scores of men. His declarations are unfit for 
thought or mention. Condemned to be burned, 
this monster of wickedness disappeared, and 
thenceforth the name of Gilles de Rais was some- 
thing to frighten children with. 

At one of the bridges named Belle Croix, at 
Nantes, at the spot where one sees the image of the 
Virgin, is an ancient monument placed in the wall 
to mark the place of the execution of Marshal 



204 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

Gilles de Rais. The records of his trial are pre- 
served in the archives of Nantes. His remains 
were buried in the Church of the Carmelites. 

At the castle of Tiffauges, the formidable figure 
of this Satanic individual, who was the twofold 
embodiment of the most perfect artist and the most 
cruel monster, constantly confronts us. We do not 
need to call upon the imagination to aid in pictur- 
ing the interior of the Castle of Tiffauges, as it was 
in the fifteenth century. Documents exist which 
are precise. The lofty arched walls of this now 
ruined castle were resplendent with the sumptu- 
ousness of the period — wainscoting of rich woods, 
tapestries brilliant in gold and silver, floors in rich 
mosaic, the vaulted roofs splendid in blue and gold, 
the escutcheons of this powerful family emblaz- 
oned everywhere — chairs of lordly proportions, 
richly carved divans, sculptured cabinets, prie- 
dieux, dressers, coffers carved in elaborate designs, 
chests wrought in metal, the beds raised upon plat- 
forms and richly set out in brocades and laces — 
perfumes, embroideries in luxurious profusion. 
And upon all this melee of colour and sumptuous- 
ness the statues of St. Anne, St. Margaret and St. 
Catharine looked down! 

Nor are the details less precise concerning the 
banqueting hall of this veritable palace. From 
the gorgeous chimney-pieces to the rare sauces 
and wines, all was in the same princely fashion. 
And we see Gilles de Rais in the midst of his un- 



CLISSON, THE GROTTO OF ABELARD 205 

godly guests — the perfect illustration of his type- 
the product of the age which made the type pos- 
sible. 

To-day we wander about among ruined arches 
and in the gloomy subterranean chapel we note 
the oubliette. Still deeper underground is the 
prison where scores of little girls, awaiting their 
turn in the horrors, were rescued by the authorities 
searching the castle for evidence when the day of 
reckoning finally arrived. 

Thus we find Morbihan furnishing rather 
gloomy studies, and yielding the most lugubrious 
impressions of any of the Departments of Brit- 
tany. The Spirit of Druidism, the bold and in- 
trepid Jeanne de Montfort, the somber picture of 
the Breton Bluebeard, the pathetic romance of 
Abelard and Heloise — afford to the traveller 
gloomy souvenirs of Morbihan. And lastly the 
intrepid Chouans play their role. The stern inde- 
pendence of the Breton character is found com- 
plete in Chouannerie, and in the wars of the Ven- 
dee a century ago the Breton played a distin- 
guished part. Thus the political history of Brit- 
tany begins with the Druids three thousand years 
ago and ends with the exploits of the Chouans in 

1793. 

We have found that of the five Departments of 
Brittany, Finistere may be named the Depart- 
ment of Art and Religion; the C6tes-du-Nord is 
filled with souvenirs of feudal Brittany and the ex- 



206 THE SPELL OF BRITTANY 

ploits of her dukes and counts; the Loire-Infe- 
rieure of which Nantes is the capital, and Ille-et- 
Vilaine of which Rennes is the chief city, have be- 
come more modern in spirit, and Morbihan may 
be named the most strongly Keltic Department of 
the Province. 

If in these little journeys together we have suc- 
ceeded in interpreting to our readers in some de- 
gree the landscape and the people of Brittany, the 
genius, psychology and mysticism of the Bretons, 
the object of these pages will have been accom- 
plished. 



INDEX 



Abbaye-Aux-Bois, 54. 

Abbe de Coulanges, 22. 

Abbess of St. Croix, 132. 

Abbey of Lebron, 65. 

Abbey of St. Gildas, 200. 

Abelard, 200. 

Adams, Henrv, 13. 

Albert, The Monk, 169. 

All Soul's Eve, 119. 

Anne of Brittany, 7, 9, II, 99. 

123-193, I94-I9S, 197- 
"Anne of Brittany and Her 

Wooden Shoes," 105. 
Arez Mountains, 104, 140, 141, 

166, 171, 172. 
Armorica, 5, 8, 9. 
Arthur, King, 124, 125. 
Arthurian Tales, 6, 184. 
"Atala," 52. 

"Au Pays des Pardons," 93, 167. 
Auber, Saint, 43, 44. 
Audierne, 134. 
Ankou, 177. 

Avranches, Bishop of, 43, 44 
Azenor, 174, 175, 176. 



B 



Balzac, 133, 136. 

Barenton, Foreword, Page 3. 

"Battle of the Thirty," Legend, 

179- 
Batz, 185. 

Beaumont, Madame de, 53. 
Begana, 34, 35, 36. 
Belle-Ile-en-Mer, 132, 133. 
Belliere la, 61. 
Beranger, Pierre Jean, 74. 
Bernhardt, Sarah, 133, 134. 



Binet, 25. 
Black Mass, 202. 
Black Mountains, 140. 
Blanche, of St. Malo, 65. 
Blois, 196. 
Bluebeard, 6, 59. 
Bluebeard Legends, 132. 
Botrel, Theodore, 104. 
Boulanger, General, 25. 
Brest, 50, 128. 
Breton Angelus, 131. 
Bretonez-Tramor, 107. 
Breton faience, 140. 
Brittany, Duchess of, 44, 153- 
Broceliande, Foreword, 3, 184. 
Brizeux, 103, 148, 149. 
Browning, Robert, Introduction. 

20, 60, 61, 134, 160, 187, 188. 

189, 190. 
Browning, Mrs., 7, 60. 



Cadnec, Jean, 48. 

Caesar, Julius, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 16. 

Cancale, Bay of, 40, 43. 

Calvaries, Foreword I, 101. 

Calvinists, 15. 

Calvinism, 15. 

Canticle of St. Yves, 98. 

Carcassonne, Foreword 3. 

Carhaix, 6, 141. 

Carnac, 6, 7, 90, 115, 158. 

Cartier, Jacques, 48. 

Casternec Mountains, 142. 

Catholicism, 66. 

Celtic, Introduction 7, 10, 16, 6, 

8, 33, 56, 101, 120. 
Celts, Introduction 21, 8, 9. 
Chantal, Madame de, 23. 
Chapel, The, of the Seven 

Saints, 162. 



207 



208 



INDEX 



Chapelain, 18. 
Charlemagne, 40, 44. 
Chartres, Cathedral of, 13, 14. 
Chateau des Roches, 7. 
Chateaubriand, Francois, Rene, 

7, 49, 50, 52, 53. 54, 55- 
Chateaubriand, Lucille, 50. 
Chouans, 205. 
Clissons, 17. 
Clisson, Oliver, 183. 
Clovis, 10. 

Coetguen, 65, 66, 67. 
Coquelin, 28. 
Coligny, 15. 
Couesnon, 39. 
Concarneau. 7, 162. 
Constant, Benjamin, 54. 
Combourg, Chateau at, 49. 
Corneille, 16, 18. 
C6tes-du-Nord, 7, 48, 65, 82, 106, 

no, 205. 
Cuvellier, 29. 

Croisic, Introduction 20, 7. 
"Croisic, Two Poets of," 160, 

183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 

189, 190. 



De Conti, Prince, 19. 

De Lude, Comte, 19. 

De Maistre, Joseph, n. 

De Rais, Gilles, 6, 201, 202, 203, 

204. 
De Retz, Cardinal, 132. 
Delilles, 53. 
Deroulede, Paul, 28. 
Descartes, Rene, 26. 
Devonshire, Duchess of, 54. 
Dinan, 10, 31, 50, 61, 62, 63, 65. 
Dinard, 49, 59, 60, 61. 
Dol, 36, 27, 50. 
Dolman, 172. 

Douarnenez, Bay of, 134. 
Dreyfus, 26. 

Druid Book, 5, 9, 26, 38, 159, 170. 
Druidism, 10, 11, 158. 
Druidic, 11. 
Druidess, n, 131. 



Du Guesclin, 6, 12, 17, 28, 29, 
3i, 32, 33, 36, 37. 38, 61, 62, 
63, 186. 

Duguay-Trouin, 49. 

Dumas, Alexander, 132, 164. 

Durocher, 109. 



ficole des Beaux Arts, 47. 
Edgeworth, Miss, 54. 
Eisteddfod, Introduction 6. 
Elle, 142. 

Elorn, River, 123, 125. 
Elven, Tower of, 179. 
Ernault, 109. 



Fairies, 171. 

Fete of Notre Dame de Fol- 
goat, 127. 

Fete of St. Yves, 88, 89, 96. 

Fete of the Solstice, 167, 168. 

Feval, Paul, 25. 

Finistere, 4, 30, 61, 102, 106, 129, 
130, 138, 149, 170, 171. 205. 

First Grenadier of France, 141. 

Folgoat, 126. 

Folklore, Foreword, I. 

Fontanes, 53. 

Fool of the Forest of Folgoat, 
125. 

Forest of Paimpont, 183. 

Frondeuse, 18. 

Fouquet, 19. 

French Revolution, 9. 

Froude, 18. 



Gallo-Roman, 8. 

Garaye, La — See La Garaye, 

Garde Joyeuse of Arthur, 124, 

125. 
Gargantua's Pebbles, 163. 
Gaul, 6, 8, 9, 10. 
"Gil Bias," 85. 
Girondet, 49. 
"Golden Hair," 190. 



INDEX 



209 



Gothic, is, 82, 151. 

Gourin, 172. 

Great Britain, 8, 9. 

Grotto of Abelard and Heloise, 

162. 
Grotto, fairies of the, 172. 
"Groach er Gouard," 142. 
Guerande, 7, 14, 185, 186. 
Geurin, Maurice de, 66, 67. 
Guesclin — See Du Guesclin. 
Guenn, 7, 143, 144, 145, 146. 
Gwenc'hlan, Foreword, 3. 
Guidel, 170. 
Guingamp, Introduction, 6, 14, 

36, 77, 165. 

H 

Heloise, 6, 200. 

Hennebout, 150, 152, 153. 

Henri II, 56. 

Herve Riel, Introduction, 20, 61, 

187, 188, 189. 
Hotel Carnavalet, 18. 
Hotel Rambouillet, 18. 
Howard, Blanche Willis, 143. 
Huelgoat, 134. 
Hugo, Victor, 54. 
Huysman, Joris Karl, 13. 
Huguenots, 15. 



Ile-et-Vilaine, Introduction, 22. 

Book, 4, 161, 206. 
Island of Ouessant, 128, 129. 
Isle of Sein, 130, 131, 134, 161. 
Isole, 142. 



Jaffrenou, Francois, 104. 
"James Lee's Wife," 191. 
Jean of Pontorson, 33. 
Jeanne d'Arc, 12. 
"Jeanne-la-Flamme," 153, 154, 

155, 156. 
Job la Poulaine, no, in. 
Josselin, 180, 181. 
Joubert, 53. 



K 



Karmartin, Manor House of, 93, 

95, 96. 
King Arthur — See Arthur. 



La Belliere — See Belliere. 
La Borderie, 8. 

Le Braz, Anatole, Introduc- 
tion, 26, 81, 93, 96, 103, 166, 

177, 183. 
La Chenaie, 7, 54, 66, 75. 
La Faouet, 141. 
La Fontaine, 18. 
La Garaye, 63, 64. 
"La Legande de la Mort," 177. 
La Tour d'Auvergne, 6. 
Laita, 142. 
Lamartine, 54. 
Lamennais, Felix de, 7, 54, 66, 

70, 71, 73, 75- 
Landerneau, 123, 139, 140. 
Lanleff, Temple of, 82. 
Lawyer, Saint, 93, 95, 96. 
Le Croisic, 148, 185. 
"Le Gardien du Feu." 103. 
Le Goffic, Charles, Introduction. 

9, 103, 183. 
Le Notre, 21. 
Le Galet, 199. 

"Le Pardon de Ploermel," 179. 
"Le Roi d'Ys," 134. 
Le Sage, 7. 

"La Terre du Passe," 103. 
"Les Derniers Bretons," 100. 
Les Roches, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 

23, 201. 
Les Precieuses Ridicules, 18. 
L'Avenir, 66. 
Legends, Foreword, 2, 27, 64, 

93, 100, 125, 126, 132, 134. 

140, 167, 169, 172, 174, 179, 

188, 201. 
Legend of Ys, 134, 138. 
Leonaise, 101. 
Lisle, Leconte de, 59. 
Little Brittany, 9. 
Locmariaquer, 160, 163. 



210 



INDEX 



Lohonnec, 86. 

Loire Inferieure, 192, 206. 

L'Orient, 148, 149. 

Loti, Pierre, 6, 77, 79, 80, 103. 

Louis XII, 123. 

Louis XIV, 45, 46, 128. 

Louis XV, 46. 

Loup Garou, 167. 

Lower Brittany, 112, 121. 

Luzel, 103, 106. 

M 

Malesherbes, 50. 

Malivet, Louis, Introduction, 22- 

23. 

Marie of France, 56, 104. 
Morgan, Mary, 171. 
"Mary, Star of the Sea," 78. 
Marbeuf, General, 25. 
Marc'harit, Phulup, 7, 8, 13, 14, 

15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 104, 105, 

106, 107, 108, no, 198. 
Menage, 18. 

Menez-Bre, Foreword, 3. 
Merimee, Prosper, 54, 142. 
Merlin, The Enchanter, 125, 184. 
Middle Ages, 5, 157. 
Mignard, 21. 
Minihy, 97, 98. 
Mivoie, 181. 
Moliere, 18. 
Montfort, Jeanne de, Countess, 

151, 152, 157- 
Mont St. Michel, 27, 39, 40, 41, 

45, 46, 47- 
Mosher, Ange M., Introduction, 

3, 8, 9, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 

20, 21, 22, 24, 25. 
Morbihan, 4, 90, 106, 115, 116, 

200, 205. 206. 
Morgan-la-Fee, 171. 
Morlaix, 99. 
Motte Broon, 31. 
Moulton, Louise Chandler, 64. 



N 



Nantes, 193. 
Napoleon I, 53. 



Natchez, 52. 

Nicole, 16. 

"Nightingale," The, 56, 59. 

Nizou, Parish of, 146. 

Normandy, 39, 40. 

Normans, 39. 

Notre Dame du Folgoat, 126. 

o 

"Oh ! Breiz Izel," 77. 

Olivier, Pere, 54. 

Order of Chivalry for Women, 

196. 
Ouessant, Island of, 130. 



Paimpol, 6, 77, 78, 79. 80, 81, 82. 

Paimfont, 184. 

Pardon, 122. 

Pardon of St. Yves, 96, 98. 

Pardon of the Poor, 96. 

Parsifal, 56. 

"Pecheurs d'Islande, 6, 77, 103. 

Pere Lachaise, 75. 

Phulup, Introduction, 7, 13, 14, 
15, x6, 17, 18, 19 (See Marc'- 
harit.) 

Pierre Longue, 190. 

Poulard, Madame, 41, 42. 

Plelan, 184. 

Pliny, 6. 

Ploermel, 179. 

Plomodiern, 140. 

Plouarazel, 161. 

Plouaret, 106, 162. 

Ploubalasnec, 79, 81. 

Plouet, 161. 

Plougastel, 114, 125. 

Ploumanach, 166. 

Pluzunet, 19, 82, 105. 

Poemes Barbares, 59. 

Pointe du Raz, 130. 

Pont Aven, 7. 

Pontorson, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34, 

36, 37, 57- 
"Popular Tales," 106. 
Pornic, 7, 190. 

Port, Etienne, Introduction, 20. 
Porz. Evan, 80. 



* 



INDEX 



211 



Provence, Count of, 19. 
Portrieux, 82. 



Quimper, 140. 
Quimperle, 8, 140, 141. 

R 

Rabelais, 20, 23. 

Rabutin-Chantal, 17. 

Racine, 16, 18. 

Ranee, 49, 61, 62, 63, 65. 

Recamier, Madame, 53. 

Renan, Ernest, 7, 83, 84, 85, 86, 

88, 104, 132, 138, 149. 
Renaissance, 63, 82. 
Rennes, 25, 26, 30, 62, 86, 195. 
Richelieu, Cardinal, 128. 
"Riel, Herve" — See Herve. 
Rocking Stones, 162. 
Rohan, 123, 141. 
Rohan, Duke de, 182. 
Roland, Song of, 44. 
Roman, 8, 9, 82, 83. 
"Romance of a Poor Young 

Man," 179. 
Romans, 8, 10. 
Round Table, Romance of, 124. 



St. Anne d'Auray, 157. 

St. Armel, Legend of, 179, 180. 

St.-Beuve, 54, 71. 

St. Cadoc, 91. 

St. Corentin, 140. 

St. Comely, 91, 160. 

St. Eloi, 91, 139. 

St. Enogat, 60. 

St. Fiacre, 141. 

St. Gildas, 91. 

St. Guenole, 135. 

St. Goustan, 190. 

St. Herbert, 91. 

St. Herve, 91. 

St. Idunet, Introduction, 18. 

St. Ivy, 91. 



St. Jean, 167. 

St. Korion, 91. 

St. Malo, 7, 48, 49, 50, 54. S6, 57, 

59, 61. 
St. Michael, 43, 44. 
Sts. of Brittany, Lives of, 169. 
St. Onene, 91. 
St. Pabu, 91. 

St. Peter, Introduction, 24, 89. 
St. Pol-de-Leon, 101, 102. 
St. Tremeur, 90. 
St. Tudwell, 83. 
St. Tu-pe-du, 169. 
St. Urlou, 90. 
St. Yves, 83, 86, 87, 89, 90, 92, 

94, 9<5, 97, 1 01. 



Tacitus, 6. 

Taden, 64. 

Taliesin, 159. 

Temple, The, of the Pagans, 

129. 
"The Lady of Coetguen," 65. 
The Roses of La Garaye," 64. 
Tiezcelin, 103. 
Tiffauges, Castle of, 204. 
Tocqueville, 54. 
Toussaint, 177. 
Treguier, 7, 82, 83, 84, 85, 87, 

90, 94, 96, 157, 201. 
Treguier, Cathedral of, 86, 94. 
Tristram and Yseult, 56. 
Tregor, Introduction, 18. 
Tudwell, St., 83. 
Turenne, 19. 
Typhaine Rageunel, 30. 61, 62. 



U 



Union Regionaliste Breton, 105. 
University of Rennes, 108. 



Vannes, 115, 200. 
Veillee, 120. 

Vendee, Wars of the, 205. 
Venus of Quinipily, 142. 



212 



INDEX 



Versailles, 23. 
Vichy, 17. 

Villemarque, 33, 103, 135, 153. 
Virgin of Guingamp, 77. 
Vitr6, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 24, 
201. 

W 

Westward Islands (Now Great 
Britain), 8. 



"Wife of the Gray Wolf, The." 

178. 
"Words of a Believer," 71, 72. 

Y 

Ys, City of, 135. 

Ys, The Submersion of, 135. 

Yves. Helotry (See St. Yves). 

Z 

Zola, Emile, 70. 



DC611 B848M6X 
Mosher, Ange McKay, 
The spell of Brittany, 



UC SOUTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 




AA 001 347 1 



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